26 June 2008

Research in Rwanda

The past 3 days have found me sitting among the top scientists in Rwanda (from all possible disciplines you could imagine: ICT, GIS, Agriculture and Environmental Science to name a few). I even got to meet the Minister of Science and Technology. And as a designer, I found it amusing to be the one presenting ideas from our group work surround initiatives that the Rwanda Science Research Council could implement in the areas of the Environment and Biotechnology. Very random. But very amazing.

There is such a need for design tools in this country. Having met with some Canadians from the McLaughlin Rotman Centre for Global Health, I was inspired to consider how design thinking can be applied to this region of Africa. The possibilities are truly endless. I hardly know where to begin! From sustainable transport to waste management to city planning - this designer is truly inspired and challenged!

Of note, this conference was supported by President Kagame as he has determined that Rwanda must move into the knowledge economy to develop its capacity further. I had many conversations about the benefit of communication design in light of economic development and urban planning and growth.

Some random stats I learned from research done by a Rwandan who is doing his PhD in Canada:

The average wage in Rwanda is less than $1 per day.
The average lifespan is 44.
46% of children under 5 are likely malnourished and likely have HIV/AIDS.

These statistics open up the opportunity for much research and exploration in the areas of food, business and health. As a designer, I am inspired to consider how one might use communication tools to increase capacity and awareness for rural communities that do not have the same sort of tools as one might find in the urban centre. That being said, even an urban centre like Kigali has much potential for development.

More to come. Definitely.

In other news, we just relocated to Kibungo today and are in the process of setting up home. As they say in Kinyarwandan, "Buhoro, buhoro" (or slowly, slowly). The basics of life do not come as easily as we in North America are accustomed. It's hard to describe but coordinating a shopping trip isn't like going to your local grocer.

We've hired a cook/cleaner (to employ a local woman) and are still waiting on our beds (we'll use mattresses tonight). I'm at UNATEK (the university in Kibungo) accessing the internet we'll be able to utilize for our entire time. But bandwidth isn't like home. Which presents an interesting challenge to web design!

But all in all, there is much opportunity and I'm looking forward to how my meager skills can be shared and transferred in the steps toward good governance.


Meghan said...

I am so stinkin' proud of you. Seriously.

Trevor said...

Hey Kara... really excited about what you're learning.

shuffle pappa said...


So many ideas and thoughts with so much to do. Have a great day today. I love your blog and your mission!