The First Lady, Mrs Jeannette Kagame, on Saturday encouraged the country’s young women to aim higher, especially by advancing imaginative solutions in the field of ICT.
The First Lady was speaking at the third edition of the annual Ms Geek 2016 Awards ceremony in Kigali, a ceremony in which five out of 130 Girls in ICT were awarded for innovative projects providing solutions to the community’s challenges – ranging from health, agriculture, urbanisation necessities, to employment.
Mrs Kagame said: “These young women learned to use the different resources made available for them to grow, and are now inspiring more girls at the international level.
“It is this attitude of turning a challenge into an opportunity to create something new, and culturally relevant, that we must continue to nurture.”
According to the First Lady, the pace at which the world is evolving “does not allow us to slow down our own development,” whether it relates to our education, health, agriculture, economy, or even our political systems.
“We must therefore keep up with this ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’, which undeniably reduces distances between people, and gives a new meaning to the concept of a ‘global village’.”
The First Lady also called on participants to rally behind positive policies pushing for more girls and women inclusion in the field of ICT, such as the HeforShe Campaign, which is supported by President Paul Kagame, and aims at bridging ‘the gender digital divide, and parity in ICT access, usage, and innovation’, within five years.
The event also saw the First Lady given the 'Outstanding Leader Award' for her dedication and commitment to girl education in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM).
The award for 'Global Promotion of Girls in ICT' was given on this same day to the former Secretary General of International Communication Union (ITU), Dr Hamadoun Touré (in absentia), who was recognized for his efforts in the empowerment of women and advancement of young girls in the ICT fields.
In this third edition of Ms. Geek contest, out of more than 130 applicants, five finalists were selected and they pitched their ideas in front of a jury before the winner was announced.
Ms Geek 2016
Ivomerere, a unique automated irrigation system, saw Rosine Mwiseneza, 22, win top honors and carry home a Rwf2 million check, a laptop, Samsung phone and iPad Air, in prizes.
Explaining the motivation of her project idea, the young lady, who is studying business management with a major in public administration at Kepler University, a nonprofit higher education programme that operates a university campus in Kigali, impressed judges when she emphasized how agriculture is the biggest employer in Rwanda and, as such, calls for innovation to improve food production and households’ earnings.
“Everyone here has missed someone for, maybe a month, six months, or even forever. It is sad. Friends are not only people, but they can also be things. For a farmer, a friend is a plant. For a plant, a friend is soil. And for soil, friend is water. But for me, a friend is my community,” Mwiseneza told guests.
Drought and unpredictable weather patterns are affecting farmers’ output, she noted, and new, easy to use and affordable technology “specifically in irrigation” will provide opportunities for farmers to better their livelihoods.
Her innovation, she said, is efficient, affordable, and saves time as it is automatic.
“Farmers will not be required to go to their fields in the morning, in the afternoon and in the evening. They only need to check once. The system is called Ivomerere, or auto-irrigate. Ivomerere uses sensors which detect the moisture of the soil,” Mwiseneza said.
“If it detects that the soil moisture is dry it sends a command to the system and the water pump will start extracting water from the tank and irrigate the field. Again, it will detect when there is enough water in the soil and send a command to the system to stop pumping water.”
She has already designed a small prototype but expects to carry on and do more research to improve it.
“I need support and partners, resources, including equipment, farmers and cooperatives to help me so that people can no longer suffer from hunger because of dryness.”
Ms. Geek Rwanda is a competition designed to inspire Rwandan girls to be part of problem solving for the country using technology and encourage them to consider a career in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths.
The competition aims to expand girls’ innovation and critical thinking skills.