Science

Driven by the vision and leadership of President Paul Kagame, Rwanda is rapidly carving out a role as a regional hub for information and communications technology (ICT) in Africa. Unlike many countries, Rwanda has recognized that efficient mobile phone networks and a high-speed fibre optic internet infrastructure will drive new business creation and attract investment. The Rwanda that is described in the Vision 2020 national strategic plan is a far cry from the shattered country of the 90s.

Recognizing that the country can’t do it alone, President Kagame has been relentless in the promotion of his vision and the attraction of strategic technology partners who are working together to build the new African hub.

Fundamental to his vision is that all Rwandans will share in the opportunities for growth and prosperity; all Rwandans will be able to use technology to enrich their lives, improve their incomes and help their families. This will be the real success story- and once again partnerships are key.

(1): ReachUp! Sessions (2): DOT President and CEO, Janet Longmore sits with Hon. Ignace Gatare, Minister in the President’s Office in charge of ICT. (3): DOT Rwanda Country Director, Violette Uwamutara. (Photos/DOT)

Digital Opportunity Trust (DOT) is proud to be a partner in President Kagame’s vision. Over the past twenty one months, since operations in Rwanda were initiated, DOT has been transforming the lives of youth, women and vulnerable communities throughout the country. Working with global partners such as the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and The MasterCard Foundation, DOT is on track to reach 35,000 Rwandans by 2013. DOT’s ReachUp! And StartUp! programs have earned the respect and support from a network of partners including the Ministry of Youth, Ministry of ICT, Rwanda Development Board, Workforce Development Authority, & Educational Institutions.

Through its programs, DOT is solving two national challenges. In developing economies, Rwanda being no exception, youth are too often graduating from their schools, colleges and universities into unemployment. They have completed their formal education, but lack work experience and the 21st century skills that today’s employers are seeking.

Despite the roll-out of a modern technology infrastructure, many people, particularly those in rural and remote communities, don’t “get it”. They don’t appreciate the potential of technology to drive new opportunities, find employment and create new businesses and jobs. DOT connects the untapped energy and ideas of youth to the unused potential of technology – for social and economic benefit. “DOT recruits young graduates (50% young women) who have not yet found jobs, yet have that spark of leadership and a strong commitment to their community and country,” says Violette Uwamutara, DOT Rwanda Country Director. “A DOT Intern is transformed into a confident young leader in a highly effective “I Know”, “I Can”, “I Will” of training (I Know), field experience (I Can) and personal development (I Will).”

Working with institutions of higher learning, DOT recruits Interns on local campuses. After a rigorous screening process involving on-line application, interviews and group activities to confirm a candidate’s leadership potential, ability to work on a team and her/his commitment to the community, an Intern will be invited into the program.

The Intern signs a contract to work with DOT for ten months. The Intern is paid a responsible stipend – not competitive with a job, but a demonstration that time and effort has value, that both parties are accountable and its an opportunity to practice money management.

Interns, in groups of 40 or more, are provided intense training over a period of four weeks. The training is a blend of face-to-face and on-line. The training concentrates on three major items: personal awareness and confidence building, 21st century workforce skills including ICT and domain specific knowledge – entrepreneurship in ReachUp! and business formation and growth in StartUp!.

The 21st century skills component assumes that young people today have basic ICT knowledge and so focuses on using ICT for effective communication, research, critical thinking, teamwork, project management, etc. “Personal awareness helps the Intern to identify her/his inner skills, strengths, desires and passions and builds individual self-confidence,” says Uwamutara.

Following training, Interns are deployed to communities where they are supported by the DOT Intern support management structure and advanced collaborative team technology. Invarious communities where DOT Programs are offered, Interns work with DOT’s network of community-based partners to run ReachUp! and StartUp! workshops to reach hundreds of community women and men. It is a train-the-trainer model with an impressive multiplier effect. A DOT Intern will reach 130 to 200 peers and elders during her/his engagement. Today, DOT Rwanda has 85 DOT Interns (Trainers) who are deployed in twenty three districts in Rwanda and over 2500 community beneficiaries have been trained.

DOT beneficiaries cover all walks of life – from youths in school or unemployed who learn how to identify and market their talents to women’s entrepreneurship groups who learn market research and business planning to youths who learn how to construct and publish a CV in response to internet job banks to the entrepreneur seeking to develop a website, a business plan and reach sources of micro-finance. Community members learn the relevance of the ICT infrastructure and how to apply ICT to measurably improve livelihoods, family incomes and community commerce.” “You cannot differentiate ICT from Business; you cannot talk about business without talking about ICT because all Business information is online. DOT Rwanda helps fills the gap between ICT users and the Government.” stated Hon. Protais Mitali, at the time Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture at a DOT graduation event in June 2011.

InternsDOT Interns train and then coach their beneficiaries as they implement their plans with their new skills.
What happens after the Internship? As the Internships draw to a close, Uwamutara explains that: “Interns are coached as they seek jobs or start their own small businesses. DOT knowledge sharing activities with different professional, mentoring and graduations are attracting more and more prospective employers. Overall in the DOT world of 13 countries, about 95% of Interns find good jobs or start businesses that create jobs, while 90% of DOT Rwanda Intern graduates have secured employment.” adding “It is a true win-win result. DOT Interns gain the experience and self-confidence to enter the workforce.

The DOT philosophy of investing in individuals, investing in communities and investing in development is a philosophy that has produced real results for Rwandans. Pauline is a recent ReachUp! participant who dreams of opening her own hair salon and thanks to ReachUp! training she boasts that: “This training was very helpful. I have gained self esteem, realizing my abilities. I have gained ICT and entrepreneurship skills. I appreciate the great support we got from our facilitators, as well as the networking with other participants.” Mohammed is another ReachUp! Participant who has established a recruitment and real estate agency that now works with 50 agents in Kigali and is involved in the recruitment of skilled employees for service companies. “I am successful today because I attended the ReachUp! Program. I gained marketing and communication skills and I learnt how to look out for opportunities.” Pauline and Mohammed are only two examples among many of Rwandans who are enriching their lives, personally and professionally through DOT Rwanda’s ReachUp! program.

“DOT Rwanda has achieved a wide range of activities which aim at providing our young populationand rural communities with entrepreneurship, project planning and business development skills.” shared Hon. Ignace Gatare, Minister in the President’s Office in charge of ICT, June 2011.
Recognizing a local demand for a more advanced program, DOT Rwanda has recently launched a program called StartUp!. StartUp! is a step beyond ReachUp! for entrepreneurs who wish to further their business and ICT skills. Over the next nine months six StartUp! Interns who have been trained will reach eight hundred entrepreneurs in their communities.