Evode Mukama via web
iRebero smart community: Driving employability and self-reliance through an ICT ecosystem model
iRebero Smart Community is a project funded by the Swedish Program for ICT in Developing Regions (SPIDER) and it aims to eradicate poverty and unemployment among the youth and widows through Information and Communication Technology (ICT) supported community programmes in pig farming, pork processing and related entrepreneurship. The project is located in the Northern Province of Rwanda, Gicumbi District, and was implemented by Sangwa Job Training Centre Ltd. According to the figures of the National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda (2018), unemployment rate in the country has constantly increased, reaching an overall rate of 20.3% in 2017. The main purpose of this research study is to inform the practice by identifying the main success stories/challenges and pinpointing strategies to improve. To this end, a focus group discussion was organised with the five members of the project management team. The findings of this study revealed a number of lessons that could inform the development of this project in its next phases and in the scalability of the project and/or in the transferability of the findings if need be. The lessons learnt are summarised below.
iRebero Smart Community is a goal-directed community-based programme and works with committed staff and beneficiaries who share the same commitment, goal and vision. The findings revealed that some beneficiaries decided to withdraw but those who remained were committed to shift their minds towards the creation of a professional value chain supply in pig farming, pork processing and related entrepreneurship. The management team was aware that they had to work hard and take sacrifice. They learned together with the beneficiaries and facilitated their learning as agents of change towards the same goal: generating sustainable and professional job opportunities for the youth and widows. The power of job creation is within the community. The findings revealed that interconnected community-based programmes can facilitate the creation of new jobs among beneficiaries through a value chain supply. The findings demonstrated how the beneficiaries started the project pigs’ collection centres. Some other beneficiaries decided to avail their plots of land in order to cultivate the wheat that could be sold and serve for the pigs’ feed. Some others were making baskets that could be used in processed meat packaging. The findings have shown also that creating new jobs takes time and requires some patience, individual commitment and active personal and community involvement.
ICT is a means of communication and a strategy to make the community-based programmes smart in the project iRebero Smart Community. This lesson was inferred from the way ICT changed the management team working environment: some members of the team decided to buy new smart phones on their own. They improved communication through social media, email and the Internet. They entered the project accounting documents into their computer.
Challenges are part of the endeavour to create new jobs and help to adapt them to the real context of the community. The findings indicated that the management team learned sometimes through mistakes and that facing challenges allowed them to see things in different and powerful ways.
Competences seem to be one of the most powerful ingredients in job creation. On the other hand, competences entail appropriate equipment to be in place and that the beneficiaries are involved in authentic and real life experiences.