Empowering African students to embrace the IoT

23rd May 2017
Joe Bush

A Smart Cities Education Programme has been kicked-off by Inmarsat, a provider of global mobile satellite communications services. The programme features a range of initiatives designed to educate and empower the next generation of students and entrepreneurs in Africa. It has been launched initially in Rwanda but will be replicated in other countries in the continent, and aims to accelerate the deployment of Internet of Things (IoT) and smart city solutions, providing the foundations for a more sustainable future.

Coinciding with Smart Africa’s Transform Africa Summit 2017, the programme will expose young Rwandans to the transformational capabilities of IoT. It will include a three month student internship, an IoT boot camp for students and entrepreneurs, and a partnership with the winner of Rwanda’s 2016 Ms Geek competition. In addition to providing knowledge, mentoring and coaching, Inmarsat and Actility have deployed LoRaWAN infrastructure around the city of Kigali for an initial period of a year, which will provide an IoT network for students to explore ideas and enable them to deploy their innovative ideas in a real life environment.

Inmarsat is mentoring Rosine Mwiseneza, the winner of Ms Geek 2016, an annual competition designed to inspire female university students to employ technology to overcome issues faced by Rwandans. Specifically, Inmarsat is collaborating with Mwiseneza and her team to implement a prototype IoT-based agricultural irrigation solution for potential commercialisation. The goal is to create a scalable solution that can be used across Rwanda as well as Africa and the rest of the world, thanks to Inmarsat’s global networks.

Paul Gudonis, President, Inmarsat Enterprise, commented: “These types of initiatives are about overcoming the challenges Rwanda faces by providing students and the next generation of entrepreneurs with the knowledge and tools they need to create a more sustainable future. Equipping students with the means to experiment with precision farming techniques has the potential to completely rewrite agriculture as Rwanda knows it. But beyond that, we want to expose students to the art of the possible and get them thinking about how IoT can drive innovation across all sectors. I expect we’ll see students imagining new and novel IoT solutions, many of which we may not have even considered yet.”

Inmarsat is also offering a three month internship to one student from the Carnegie Mellon University’s campus in Kigali. The selected student will learn about the importance of satellite communications in the IoT ecosystem and will work with the Ministry of Youth and ICT to initiate some early IoT deployments. The intern will be responsible for managing the network, the application layer and the sensors involved in these deployments.

Additionally, Inmarsat will host an IoT developer boot camp, along with FabLab, IoT networking partner Actility and ICT Chamber. The boot camp will take entrepreneurs, developers and students through a complete IoT journey, which will demonstrate how to build sensors, how to collect and analyse the data, the applications involved and how to build them, along with an exploration of different agricultural and environmental use cases.

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