I was excited about the kLab right from the beginning. One day, early on, I convinced a friend of mine to pay a clandestine visit to the kLab while it was under construction, eager to show it off. But I could see from his facial expression he didn’t understand what kLab was and how important it would be for the community. Perhaps from my incredible enthusiasm he expected a spaceship or teleporter, not just a room filled with desks and chairs.
Maybe you share that sentiment, so here is one small attempt to answer that question: "What is kLab? And what will it mean for me?".
"Community, Innovation and Openness" - all three words must be intertwined to understand the kLab mission.
Who does the kLab target? Everyone who has an interest in information and technology: enthusiasts, students, engineers, designers and any others that fall under the umbrella of ICT. We can all agree that there are many that fall under those categories in Rwanda, but do they really form a community?
The numbers are there but it takes more, the truth is that a group scattered doesn't connect, misses the benefits that cohesion brings. Having kLab as a focal point, a place where minds can meet, interact and share will help create that community.
And what of Innovation? Just as we have our eyes opened when we first come to the city, so will innovation follow from seeing others around you working on new technologies. From the meeting of the minds, new ideas will sprout, differing backgrounds joining to come up with innovations not possible alone. Innovation sprouts from Community.
The culture of sharing and openness, is not common in Rwanda, or Africa in general, not because there isn't the willingness to do so but because there haven’t been many platforms to encourage it. By sharing ideas with our community openly, and by having their expertise to critique it, we gain as our dreams become further refined.
Taken a step further, we can be open with the goal to find collaborators, to not only seek feedback but also contributions. To that end we’ve open sourced the kLab website, for everyone to view, change and improve. We want this website to belong to the community, to be open, and to seek your innovations in improving it.
In this scenario everyone wins, the kLab site will be improved by the community, just as the community will be improved by the website. It can serve as both a showcase and an example, act as both a lesson and a proving ground. We hope some can learn from the code, how it was developed, how to write clean and comprehensible code.
So it is with that spirit of Openness that Nyaruka open sourced the kLab site. The project is hosted on github where anyone can fork, apply changes and propose them to be part of the site by filing a pull request. Already some contributions have come in, making the site better than before. Together, as a community we will have a chance to improve the site over time, letting it grow into our shared vision.
It is an amazing process, and we can't wait to see the equally amazing contributions from the community.
In May 2012 kLab, the open innovation space located in Kigali’s ICT Park in Telecom House, Kacyiru will open its doors to young and dynamic innovators and entrepreneurs. kLab’s mission is to promote, facilitate, and support the development of innovative ICT solutions by nurturing a vivid community of entrepreneurs and mentors in Kigali.
Recently, kLab held a competition among potential members and designers to develop its logo. Several people participated in the competition via kLab’s Twitter account (@klabrw) and Eugene Rwagasore, a graphic designer with Nyaruka emerged as the winner. A graduate of KIST in Computer Science, Rwagasore’s passion for graphic design and programming emerged after secondary school. Rwagasore entered the kLab logo competition because of his desire to create something meaningful and long-lasting in Rwanda’s emerging ICT market.
In line with the Government of Rwanda’s objectives, kLab’s goals are to support the development of ICT in Rwanda and to make Rwanda a focal point for IT in the region. kLab was developed with the support of the Ministry of Information and Communications Technology in the Office of the President, the Rwanda Development Board (RDB), JICA, the Private Sector Federation (PSF), and the Carnegie-Mellon University Rwanda. With its location in the ICT Park, kLab members will benefit greatly from being part of the country’s first innovation incubator. In this space members will develop the projects and businesses that will form Rwanda’s ICT industry, under the guidance of experts and mentors from around the world.
There has been a lot of hard work going into the first incarnation of the kLab. Thanks in large part to support from RDB, the tireless efforts of the Design Village and an amazing commitment of financial support from JICA, we are closing in our goal. Have a look at the image to the left and you should have an idea just how far we've come in such a short while.
Last November, I along with my partner Nicolas Pottier of Nyaruka, Ltd. attended an ICT Chamber meeting with the aim of determining actionable goals for ICT in Rwanda. Out of that meeting, with many stakeholders from the tech community in Rwanda, came a clear call for an open innovation space to bring young entrepreneurs together for networking and mentorship. At that meeting we teamed up with key players in the community including Atsushi Yamanaka of JICA/RDB, Clement Uwaheneza of the Rwanda Software Association, and Patrick Kabagema, the ICT Chamber President. It was exciting to see how easy it was for us to form a common understanding of what was needed. We just needed to figure out how to make it happen.
Sharing in our mission of sparking technology entrepreneurship, CMU-Rwanda's Associate Director, Michel Bézy helped to form the kLab Working Group. We've since pulled in key players in the community, including MINICT, RDB, CODEPAC and the iHills to make sure that everyone's goals were aligned. That group has gone on to meet weekly to identify the next actionable steps and then to execute toward the ultimate goal -- opening the doors to Rwanda's first innovation center to inspire and mentor the next great technologists in the region.
It's been a tremendous amount of time, but we are finally coming to the point where we can physically see the fruits of our labor.