Is the idea of a smart villager a pipe dream?

Let me share a dream with you all. A Rukomo farmer wakes up at the crack of dawn, switches on the light and unplugs his smartphone from the wall socket. As he is putting on his gum boots, he switches on the radio to listen to the early morning newscast.

Let me share a dream with you all. A Rukomo farmer wakes up at the crack of dawn, switches on the light and unplugs his smartphone from the wall socket. As he is putting on his gum boots, he switches on the radio to listen to the early morning newscast.

After a few minutes, he steps into the cold air and then walks to the cattle shed and commences the early morning milking.

 

As the sun continues to rise, he walks back home to enjoy breakfast with his family. The children are already up and they are fixated at the screens of their laptops.

 

Their mother is also online, checking on the wholesale price of maize in Kigali, for she is about to meet a buyer of her three-tonne harvest and she does not want to be cheated.

 

As the children go off to school, the farmer remembers that he hasn’t yet officially registered their two-week old child at the Umurenge (Sector) offices. So, he goes online, pays the registration fee, and walks to the Sector simply to present the child’s proof of birth.

After that errand, he meets up with other members of the dairy cooperative that he’s a part of at the local community centre, where they receive classes on how to use the very latest smartphone apps.

After the meeting, he walks home where he finds this wife concluding the sale of the maize; the buyer pays her electronically and she receives a text message on her phone proving that the money has reached her account.

After the children return home for lunch, one complains to mom that they are not feeling well. So, she goes online to an e-health website where she has a virtual consultation with a pediatrician.

The doctor in Kigali tells the relieved mother that it’s nothing too serious, that the child is simply getting chicken pox, a harmless childhood disease. Later on, the family sits down together to watch the evening news and then finally goes to bed.

This is quite a dream huh? A village that is connected to the wider world through digital and financial tools. All powered by electricity. The funny thing is, this dream isn’t that far from reality.

Currently, there is a programme that is being spearheaded by the Ministry for ICT alongside various partners called ‘The Smart Village Initiative’.

In this Smart Village, villagers will be able to access affordable smartphones, trainers will teach them how to download and then use various apps (such as the hugely popular Whatsapp), solar energy will light up their homes and power their appliances, government services will be a few clicks away on Irembo and financial services shall be provided through their mobile phones.

All this is only possible through cooperation between the government, the public sector and, most importantly, the citizenry. Having personally spoken to the end-users, I can say that this initiative is extremely welcome.

So, if you one day go to the village and wonder why everyone seems to be eying their phone screen intently, it just might be that my dream has become a reality.

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How can we ensure that the number of Rwandans living abroad continues to dwindle?

A few days ago, a local blogger wrote a Facebook post that had #RwoT (Rwandans on Twitter) in a tizzy. In the post, he called on the members of the African diaspora to put down tools and come home because they were needed more back here.

He used a few ‘hot’ words that had people up in arms. While I didn’t necessarily agree with the tone of his piece of writing, I couldn’t fault his good intentions.

The fact of the matter is that Africa has been, for too long, losing its best talent whether in academics, business, arts or sports to other continents. The good news, at least for us, as a survey by the Mail and Guardian newspaper revealed, was that among African nations, Rwanda not only ranked number one in being able to attract the best talent, it is also number one in retaining its best talent. Our neighbor to the south? Well, it isn’t doing too well. In fact, it ranks last on both indicators. It can’t attract talent and its best talent is fleeing the country as well. 

So, we aren’t doing too badly where brain drain is concerned; however, we shouldn’t rest on our laurels. We need to fully comprehend the things that keep us on top and then consolidate those very things.

Only then will our very best feel no need to search for greener pastures for the greenest pastures will be right here at home.

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