Students undertaking ICT at Rwanda’s public and private universities are not getting the skills needed to make Rwanda the tech hub it dreams to be, says the World Bank.
In the latest Economic Update “Accelerating Digital Transformation in Rwanda”, the report says universities are teaching basic IT skills.
All public universities fall under single entity University of Rwanda. There are several other private universities. There are also international universities with local branches.
World Bank report says: “As it stands, Rwanda is not producing the number of digital specialists needed, nor of the requisite caliber, to propel the kind of cross-sectoral digital transformation that Rwanda aspires to achieve.”
Courses available at universities said to focus primarily on computer maintenance, software development, programming, information management and networking – all low end skills.
Some 2,544 students were estimated to be graduating with a degree in ICT by 2016. However, these graduates typically lack hands-on experience, due to limited opportunities for practical training, as well as misalignment between skills taught and those demanded by prospective employers.
Employeers sampled for the World Bank report said IT students coming out are “inadequately educated”.
While ICT courses are also offered by most types of TVET institutions, few are considered to be at digital specialist level. Moreover, few TVET students choose to study advanced-level ICT course and even less graduate.
The World Bank however says Rwanda is better off compared to the region as it is tackling the problem vigorously. The government has also implemented innovative ways to cover up for the urgent shortfall in IT skills.
Government has also partnered with for-profit training provider such as Andela to offer rapid advanced digital skills training in coding, and sought to attract world-renowned academic institutions such as Carnegie Mellon University, which established its Africa campus in Rwanda in 2011.
The problem though with these international academic institutions, the cost makes them inaccessible. A very small number of Rwandans attend these colleges, says the World Bank.
In 2017, Rwanda launched the flagship Digital Ambassadors Program (DAP), in partnership with the World Economic Forum (WEF) and the Digital Opportunities Trust, which aims to deliver basic digital skills training to some 5 million people.
In early 2019, the Government launched the Rwanda Coding Academy, targeting TVET institutions.
Donor funding, say the report’s researchers, has helped launch a series of other smaller schemes such as WeCode.
The World Bank writes: “While the private sector has also contributed to informal basic digital skills training, there is scope to do more in terms of crowding in the private sector, but also to expand existing schemes such as the DAP.”
Incidentally, the report was released at an event held at the University of Rwanda’s College of Science and Technology (former KIST).