T here is a need to strengthen the capabilities of young Rwandan innovators in digital and coding skills for entrepreneurship development and job creation, according to facilitators.

Ildephonse Mungwarakarama, the managing director of Creativity Lab, a social enterprise offering innovative teaching and equipment to students to build their skills in robotics, says that opportunities should be created for Rwandan youth to shape and build their career and skills in programming, and think critically to find technological solutions solving daily community problems.

Mungwarakarama partnered with Rwanda National Commission for The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to organise a five-day capacity-building training for about 40 young innovators in digital and coding skills.

The training was part of the Africa Code Initiative, a large digital literacy initiative that empowers the youth across 54 African countries with 21st Century skills. The young innovators include university students and those who completed university and secondary school.

The skills learned by trainees during the exercise allowed them to use coding to create ICT-based solutions to community problems.

“To maintain this culture of building the next generation of innovators, we introduced a similar programme, “Students Invention Challenge”, in schools across the country to encourage primary and secondary students to build, invent and engage in a creative process that fosters 21st Century skills and innovates for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs),” Mungwarakarama says.

The Students Invention Challenge is aligned with the school curriculum which enables students to apply what they learn in their classroom to develop Science, Technology, Engineering, Math (STEM) related projects of their choice.

“Students are tasked with creating something that solves problems of their choice using their STEM skills in the areas of climate action, child protection, disability inclusion, good health and well-being, agricultural technology, quality education, clean water and sanitation, and sustainable cities that are in line with sustainable development goals,” he says.

Students Invention Challenge will inspire students across the country to create inventions that help solve problems in their communities and express their ideas through designing, he adds.

Young innovators share their solutions The best six solutions by young innovators that are to be awarded include tap in and out systems, child abuse and reporting system, online gas ordering system, Imihigo-based umuturage system, emergency alert system,

and e-citizen contribution system, as well as beauty parlour management system.

Patrice Niyomugabo is one of the young innovators trained in digital and coding skills in a group that came up with the best solution—an online gas ordering system.

“I completed secondary school in 2018 in the sciences. After training, I designed an online gas ordering system. This will help fight climate change as more people embrace alternative cooking energy that saves our forests.

“A client can log in and order for gas. There are detailed prices and kilogrammes needed.

The system also avails technicians who can repair the gas stoves,” he says.

Yve Abijuru, a young innovator who completed secondary school in 2018 in computer science is in the group that came up with the “child abuse and reporting system” solution.

“Child defilement is a problem that is affecting the community. Some children and relatives fear to report the cases for various reasons. The online system will help the victims to easily report the cases. Agents on the system will immediately link the victims to organs in charge of child protection and health,” he says.

“I came up with the idea and the group accepted it. The system will help defilement victims break the silence,” adds Sandrine Umuhire, who studied at Nyanza Technical School.

Dominique Mvunabandi, the head of Science, Technology and Innovation department at Rwanda National Commission for UNESCO, says capacity-building for young innovators helps to seek ICT-based solutions to different community problems in agriculture, environment, water, disaster management, justice, and others.

“The African coding week that is held every year, for example, builds the capacity of young innovators in coding skills. Those with the best innovations will be awarded ICT equipment such as laptops and smartphones that will help them refine their projects.

Some can be connected to financial institutions and companies for employment,” he says. editor@newtimesrwanda.com