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Children showcase their ICT talents in developing concepts for child-friendly applications on CRC and SDGs

UNICEF Rwanda/2015
© UNICEF Rwanda/2015
(from left) Didier Nkurikiyimfura, DG in charge of MYICT (left) and Sid Shrestha, Chief of Communication, Advocacy and Partnerships listen to the group presentations in the final round of the Hackathon.

- Daniel Nzohabonimana and Albertine Uwimana

Kigali 16 December 2015 - Five teams comprising twenty-five young computer programmers and children participated in the first-ever hackathon for the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The two day event, held on 15th and 16th December, was organized by kLab in partnership with the Ministry of Youth and ICT, the National Children Commission (NCC), and UNICEF.  It engaged children to find Information, Communication, and Technology (ICT) solutions to issues affecting their lives.

Each of the five teams was composed of two children from different schools and three software developers from kLab; the teams worked to develop mobile and web applications that address the 17 SDGs and promote the rights of children.

The hackathon was a unique opportunity to engage children in ICT and enable them to discover their talents for designing child-friendly web and mobile applications.

Presiding over the closing of the first day, UNICEF Rwanda Country Representative Ted Maly appreciated the way that the event brought technology and development together.

“Although the problems may not be simple, the solutions to those problems can be if we all work together”, said Mr. Maly.

Mr. Maly went on to point out that RapidSMS was a good example of an application that took a simple but effective approach to saving the lives of mothers and children by tracking their health statuses and ensuring that they receive the necessary health services on time.

Mr. Didier Nkurikiyimfura, the Director General in charge of ICT at the Ministry of Youth and ICT, asserted that the hackathon is a great opportunity for children who have a lot of potential to develop and stand as the future of Rwanda.

“The government has put a strong emphasis on using ICT for development, so this two day event is about planting the seed in the lives of these children so that they can find solutions to problems affecting their wellbeing”, noted the Director General.

Mr. Nkurikiyimfura was amazed by what the teams were able to achieve in just two days and noted that the event inspired confidence and hope that the Government and its development partners are doing the right thing by investing in a new generation that will bring Rwanda to new level of development.

Clarisse Iribagiza, a 15-year-old who was part of the Bright Generation team that won the first prize, was jubilant to have won a smartphone, while her teammates received laptop computers that were made in Rwanda.

“After learning from UNICEF and NCC about the problems facing children and their rights, our team thought that the main problem children face is that of quality of education, so we came up with a mobile application that will help schools to assess how their students perform”, said the student at Gashora Girls Academy.

Iribagiza reiterated that children have solutions to their own problems, and that the hackathon was a good opportunity for them to demonstrate this.

UNICEF Rwanda/2015
© UNICEF Rwanda/2015
Bright Generation group receives the first prize for the development of their prototype application “Itetero” at the Hackathon event.

Choosing the first and second runner-up was not an easy job for the hackathon judges, according to Siddhartha Shrestha, UNICEF Rwanda’s Chief Communication, Advocacy and Partnerships. 

“It was a very close competition, and that is why we took more time than expected. All partners in this hackathon have decided that they will incubate all five applications because they all have the potential to promote the rights of children and the SDGs, so everyone is a winner”, added Mr. Shrestha.

The president of Young ICT Entrepreneurs, which sits within the Private Sector Federation, declared that ICT is a cross-cutting tool that can be used to promote both the CRC and the SDGs.

“We organized this event because we wanted to integrate ICT into solutions to problems that children are facing by bringing them on board”, Mr. Patrick Bucyana said.

The five mobile and web applications address children`s rights and SDGs in one way or another and carry great potential to resolve various challenges that children face.

Bwanakweli Alex believes that the first right of children is that of health and protection. His team worked on a medical appointment solution that will help pregnant women to book appointments with a doctor.

“Our application will make it easier for pregnant mothers to get regular checkups”, said the computer programmer from kLab. 

The hackathon for the CRC and SDGs is in line with SMART Rwanda, a plan that was recently approved by the Government of Rwanda. SMART Rwanda emphasizes the role of innovation, entrepreneurship, and ICT to transform Rwanda into a knowledge-based economy.



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