Rwanda’s foundations of its technological infrastructure is inspiring-varsity don

With plans for Carnegie Mellon University to establish its presence in Rwanda almost complete, Fred Oluoch-Ojiwah of The New Times spoke to Prof Bruce H. Krogh The first Programme Director of the Kigali based campus  about the institution’s  broad objectives.Excerpts

With plans for Carnegie Mellon University to establish its presence in Rwanda almost complete, Fred Oluoch-Ojiwah of The New Times spoke to Prof Bruce H. Krogh The first Programme Director of the Kigali based campus  about the institution’s  broad objectives.

Why Rwanda and not any other country?

The discussions between Carnegie Mellon University and the Government of Rwanda began over three years ago when Rwanda declared its plans to establish a Centre of Excellence in Information and Communication Technology.  The forward-looking aspirations of Rwanda and its clear commitment to building the business environment and infrastructure needed to meet these aspirations resonated with Carnegie Mellon’s leadership.  It became clear that this was a unique opportunity to launch an initiative with a partner that shared CMU’s desire to create innovative programmes that have the potential to have profound and lasting impact. 

What kind of programs will CMU-Rwanda offer?

CMU-R will offer master’s degree programmes aimed at preparing students to be innovators and leaders in the emerging information and communication technology (ICT) industry in Africa. Our initial programme will be an MS in Information Technology (MSIT) with a broad set of core courses in software engineering, data communication networks, wireless technology, information security and business strategies in ICT. Elective courses will give students depth in a variety of areas related to mobile technology, broadband internet and cloud computing. The first class of students for the MSIT will be admitted in August 2012. We will begin offering the MS ECE degree two years later. This will be the same MS we offer in Pittsburgh, with particular emphasis on ICT.

Will students come exclusively from Rwanda, or is CMU-R anticipating a more global reach?

Applications will be accepted from anywhere, and we hope to have a diverse student body.  But the majority of students will be from Rwanda and East Africa, and all students should be interested in our emphasis on ICT for the developing world.

Why start with master’s programme? It is known that there is a skills shortage at much lower levels in Rwanda.

By offering only Master’s degrees, CMU-Rwanda is admittedly focusing on only one portion of the significant educational needs in Rwanda and East Africa.  CMU-Rwanda is addressing the need for highly-trained individuals to be leaders and innovators in the emerging ICT industry. 

We believe CMU can play an important and distinct role in addressing this particular need, while other initiatives are addressing education and skills shortages at other levels.  In addition to offering our Master’s programs, CMU will also be working with the Government of Rwanda to develop programmes in practical training and executive education, and we anticipate that our students and faculty will be involved in educational initiatives at all levels.

Rwanda conjures up certain images in peoples’ minds. Why would Carnegie Mellon — and the ECE Department — want to offer programmes there?

When people hear we are opening a campus in Rwanda, their initial response is almost always surprise—it was certainly my response when I heard about it the first time. Rwanda is one of the most familiar countries in Africa and throughout the world because of the horrific genocide that occurred in 1994, only 17 years ago.

What is much less known is that during the past decade Rwanda has become one of the most rapidly developing countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Following its Vision 2020 roadmap for development, the GoR has been pursuing an ambitious programme to establish a knowledge-based economy, and the progress has been remarkable.

Rwanda has laid the foundations of a technological infrastructure along with an attractive atmosphere for business and entrepreneurship, making it an ideal location for Carnegie Mellon to establish its first presence in Africa.

 As the first major U.S. research university to offer an in-country degree programme in Africa, CMU and ECE have the opportunity to take leadership — and create leadership — in a region of the world that many predict may experience the most rapid technological development in history.

What is the cost of this collaboration between Rwanda and USA?

CMU-Rwanda is based on a ten-year contract between the Government of Rwanda and Carnegie Mellon University.  The African Development Bank is providing funds to develop the campus for the ICT Centre of Excellence, which will include the CMU-Rwanda program. 

The costs of the collaboration with CMU will be determined each year based on the actual expenses incurred to support the program faculty and staff, and the tuition collected from students will be applied to offset these costs.

How would the (CMU-R) develop an innovation Incubator?

CMU-Rwanda refers specifically to the educational component of the ICT Centre of Excellence offering Carnegie Mellon Master’s degrees.  CMU-Rwanda will work with the Government of Rwanda to develop the strategic plan for the innovation incubator. 

The plans for the innovation incubator will be developed during the coming months.  The goal is to create a facility and supportive environment where entrepreneurs can turn ideas into viable commercial enterprises.  We anticipate our students and faculty will be deeply involved in the innovation incubator.

How about other programmes, such as the advanced practical training programmes, executive education programmes and a mobility research centre?

As with the innovation incubator, CMU-Rwanda is committed to work with the Government of Rwanda to develop the strategic plan for these other components of the ICT Centre of Excellence. 

Practical training programmes and executive education will be self-sustaining educational initiatives separate from the CMU-Rwanda Master’s degree programmes.  We plan to engage with industrial organizations and leading domain experts to offer these programs. 

Industry and government organizations will sponsor research and development projects in mobile technologies will be pursued in the mobility research center.  CMU-Rwanda faculty will be encouraged to participate in this research and to help pursue funding for projects in the center in collaboration with industry.

What made you decide to take this position as first director of the programme?

I was invited to become Director of CMU-Rwanda by Professor Pradeep Khosla, Dean of the College of Engineering at Carnegie Mellon University. 

 I was intrigued by his enthusiasm for the project.  As I learned more about Rwanda and the vision for the ICT Centre of Excellence, I understood why Pradeep and others at Carnegie Mellon were so committed to the vision for CMU-Rwanda.  I decided this was an exceptional opportunity to be part of something truly exciting and transformational.

Any concluding remarks?

My wife and I are looking forward to moving to Kigali early next year.  I encourage anyone interested in knowing more about CMU-Rwanda to look at our website,, and feel free to contact me with any questions.


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