Rwanda is no doubt a rising star on the continent, most especially in the field of technology. The various initiatives are testimony to our collective vision as a country to become a self-sustainable community by leveraging technology to empower students to escape poverty.
The One Laptop Per Child program and the upcoming iSlate program resonate with me especially because of the focus on introducing technology at the primary school level all over the country.
Putting cheap innovative devices into the hands of every ordinary citizen means Rwandan students will stop thinking about searching for jobs and looking to create their own.
But we cannot get comfortable…and who better to demonstrate this than India? One of India’s technology institutions dedicated itself to creating a tool that can be acquired and used by the poorest of the poor in that nation-and they did.
With the support of India’s Human Resource Development Ministry, the institute designed and made a gadget akin to the iPad with wireless capabilities.
The Aakash is based on the Android OS, with three hours of battery life and the ability to download videos,PDFs and educational software. Indian students of the lowest means will have full access to the global village as the government is committed to subsidizing Internet connection for schools.
Here is the million-dollar question: Can we dare to be as ambitious? I don’t have the answer to that but maybe we can emulate India; making do with parts from China and using open-source software and collaboration tools, one piece of the puzzle was solved.
The other piece being the assembly is where Rwanda may fall a bit short. I am not aware of the capacity of Rwanda Computer Network (Rwanda’s computer assembly entity) to adopt a project of this magnitude but we could tap into our neighbors’ manufacturing capacity and outsource this aspect of the project.
I am not an expert in Rwanda’s capacity to execute a project like this but that is not the point; the real question at hand is; are we ready to take matters into our own hands, so to speak?
When will we deem ourselves ready to stop receiving tools from the OLPC program, for example, and pool our resources together to create these tools for ourselves?
This naturally begs the question, why re-invent the wheel? Because customized tools designed by Rwandans for Rwandans will empower students from either end of the spectrum-that of the inventor at KIST and the benefactor deep in the village.
Or better still, is there a means to create collaboration with the American institutions (that bring us these gadgets) at the design level? Instead of a ready-made product, can Rwandan programmers play a role in programming and product design?
If anyone has answers to these questions, I would like to hear back from you at email@example.com