Open Data is coming to Rwanda, and kLab is likely to play a big role in it. Open Data is a rapidly growing movement around the world, with more than 250 governments pursuing Open Data initiatives. Governments at all levels understand that Open Data is a powerful catalyst for innovation, entrepreneurship and improved public services, in addition to an enabler of transparency and accountability. Recognizing this global trend, the Government of Rwanda recently requested the World Bank to assist in a preliminary assessment of Rwanda’s readiness to launch a national Open Data initiative. In response, a team of experts from the government and the Bank are partnering to conduct an Open Data Readiness Assessment (ODRA) in Rwanda.
ODRA is based on a methodology developed by the World Bank to assist governments in diagnosing what actions could consider in order to establish an Open Data initiative. This means more than just launching an Open Data portal for publishing data. An Open Data initiative involves addressing both the supply and the reuse of Open Data. And that is where kLab comes into the picture. Data by itself is useless for most people. To create real value, Open Data must be turned into something — a map, a mobile application, a new service— that people can use. Developers are vital for this.
The Rwanda ODRA exercise began during the week of June 10th, and the assessment team had the opportunity to meet kLab management, mentors and a group of kLab tenants. Jeff Kaplan, one of the original creators of the ODRA methodology for the World Bank, led the discussions on behalf of the ODRA team. During a lively meeting at kLab, it quickly became clear that Open Data could prove useful for a number of projects being developed by kLab tenants – from a tourism portal to mobile agriculture and nutrition apps. The technical skills and talent of kLab tenants will be an essential resource for Rwanda’s Open Data efforts. kLab developers and entrepreneurs are well positioned to transform Open Data into viable apps and services that can both showcase the value of Open Data and even help produce the next big commercial success in Rwanda’s ICT market.
A few weeks ago I found out an article talking about ten top places to visit while in Kigali and guess what, kLab is on the list. The person who did the ranking was not mistaken at all; kLab is such a unique place in Rwanda where tech innovators gather to develop tech solutions. On June 13, 2013 while wrapping up to head home after a busy day at work, I received a call from someone I really respect, someone behind lots of ICT changes undergoing in Rwanda – Patrick Nyirishema, the Head of RDB-IT. He first asks how are things going at kLab, I give some updates and then comes the big news. “Claude, someone very important will be visiting kLab tomorrow”, he says. With a lot of curiosity I ask, who Sir? “Steve Job’s wife/widow, she in town and would like to visit kLab” he clarifies. By the time the call ended, I was already excited about the news. I personally admire Steve Jobs work – he was a genius! Now Imagine spending some time with the wife – isn’t it amazing? The next day as usual I get at work early in the morning, as usual I first do a to-do list for the day and part of it, I add give a tour to Laurene Powell Jobs. Afterwards the news was disseminated among the wider kLab community.
At around 2:45pm, some bazungu enter kLab, when I go receive them I notice there is no woman among them. We do the introductions and finds out that it’s Steve Jobs brother in law and his son. A few minutes later, Laurene Jobs with the daughters enter kLab, wow amazing! They enter holding bourbon coffee take away cups enjoying the Rwandan coffee while visiting. I give them a detailed kLab tour, as we walk through kLab, Laurene just points at one of the kLab tenants and says; “you made a right choice, you are using a great machine”, we all turn to see what kind of laptop is that. I assume you can all guess – it was a macbook pro. What else should we expect from the brand founder’s wife! The tour goes on, kind of impressed by kLab interior design she asks: “but who designed this place, a local person?” A Rwandan interior designer, I respond. I know some of you are already curious; you are welcome to visit as she did. After the tour, she meets some of the people and goes on asking questions about the project being developed by kLab tenants which she tries to link with her areas of interests. “I develop applications using iOS, a platform invented by Apple (Steve Jobs'), meeting his wife/widow is amazing” , says Peter, a kLab tenant who develops iOS applications.
The tour ends as she heads to Carnegie Mellon University Rwanda located just 2 floors under kLab. It was great meeting the wife of late Steve jobs, one of the greatest innovators of all time.
On Thursday, 16th May 2013, kLab hosted the second edition of Ni-!mpamo, (reality) a monthly event that brings local successful ICT entrepreneurs to speak to ICT youngsters aspiring to become Techpreneurs. The 120 minute event hosted a young inspiring Rwandan Kaneza Innocent. Born in Kigali in 1983, Kaneza carries with him many years of professional experience in software development, web design, web development, Graphic design and mobile application solutions, project management and that in several sectors from government, telecoms, banking, insurance, private, NGOs, etc.
"I made a website with a friend and we approached many big companies but they all refused to buy it. A year later, many websites started coming up and due to our low persistence we didn't make it," he said in regret. Along this path of trials and tribulations, he learnt a lot and made the best of these lessons. After this inspiring speech, the floor was open to the audience who expressed a lot of their concerns and Kaneza as well as the crowd had solutions to air out as well.
Some of the major issues that came up were: market realities and opportunities, how to manage a startup, where to invest/spend, difficulty in managing the coding and business part of a project, and the biggest issue faced by young developers - sleeping projects. Ntwari Shaka, a kLab tenant says having to share failures and success stories makes it easy for future programmers to develop apps with ease. "This discuss was motivating and boosting. It was an eye opener for those of us that are going to face the market soon and I, personally loved how people's talked about the proper marketing strategies to use like first making a free trial project then charging later,"
Over the course of his experience, Kaneza has won local and international awards such as; the award winning project of Electricity payment project (TIGA Award 2007 organized by UNECA …). The DG Immigration and Emigration online visa services which won several local and international awards in service delivery. He is currently the senior consultant at Esicia LTD, a local software development and security firm servicing different institutions in the different sectors of activities stated above with activities in Rwanda and across Africa in general.