Ms. Geek: Rwanda’s Search for High Tech Girl

Rwanda is known to be home to some of the most beautiful women in the world. And, the search for the finest girl to crown “Miss Rwanda”, is one of the most intense beauty contests there is.

Both local and international judges assemble to assess the beauty pageants on their poise, critical thinking, and social skills.

The winner has to meet all these standards above all others, a position that comes with a lot of various prizes, entitlements, a monthly salary for 12 months and advertisement deals.

With a wide spectrum of qualities displayed by contents, judges are always confronted with the decision to choose the winner.

Overtime, however, organisers discovered there is more to the Rwandan girls than their beauty; tech-savviness.

The Crown Miss Rwanda Kundwa Doriane.
The Crown Miss Rwanda Kundwa Doriane.

In 2014, ‘Miss Geek’ pageant contest was introduced. Criteria? Brain power.

Last year, the contest was held in Kigali City, during Women’s Day celebration. And guests were caught off guard.

The girls looked shabby, with no makeup. Nothing like cat-walks . “It seems like some sort of beauty pageant, but what would be the physical qualities?” John Kagabo, one of the guests wondered.

Suddenly a contestant walked to the stage and there was a moment of silence. With immense curiosity, the crowd impatiently waited for the next move.

Upon facing the audience, a contestant went berserk; pitching a complex tech-business idea.

One of the organizers and judges, Vanessa Umutoni, a software developer at Pivot Access, an ICT company and a member of the ‘Girls in ICT’ organisation, says the primary qualification for Miss Geek is to have a project with a unique technology aspect.

Contestants had to identify a problem affecting their community and provide a technology-based solution.

The contest has broken the stereotypes that science is for men, says Umutoni. The thousands of Rwandan girls are now inspired into the tech world. And with her “Mobile Cow App”, 21-year old Nancy Sibo, an app developer, was crowned the first ever Miss Geek.

Now 200 farmers use Sibo’s app to monitor their cows’ gestation period and milk productivity.

According to Umutoni, Sibo’s application emerged the best because of its voice based format that made it easily usable by farmers.

Following Sibo, Christine Bayizere, a student in Electronics and Electricity Engineering, presented a Wireless Black Box that monitors vehicles and sends alerts in case of an accident.

On the third spot, Josephine Tujyimbere, came with a Class Attendance Management System, which uses fingerprint recognition to monitor students’ progress.

Then Chantal Mukundwa, a Computer Engineering & Information Technology student, came with the Nearby Item Locater System, which is both a web and a mobile application, that allows users to search for items they wish to buy.

Now, this year’s contest seems to more challenging and demanding. Girls will present affordable social learning platforms to bridge the education gap in Rwanda by transferring knowledge, both online and offline.

For months girls in ICT have visited different high schools and universities, presenting the problem and guidelines towards coming up with the best solutions.

While the 2014 Miss Geek competition targeted university students, this time high school students are the major target. At this stage, orgnisers says, girls are always confronted with the challenge to choose a suitable career. It is thus a good stage to identify girls with a tech-talent.

Miss Geek contestants in a group photo.
Miss Geek contestants in a group photo with event organisers.

So far, 70 applications have been tendered in, only five solutions will be chosen and posted on the internet for people to vote for the best.

The application with many votes takes the People’s choice award. While Miss Geek, the first and second runners-up are chosen by a pennel of judges from the Girls in ICT, a group made up of over 30 Rwandan women working in the ICT sector.

The winner will receive Rwf2 million ($2800), a trip to an international tech conference, a tablet surface, a laptop and internship.

An event that started on a small note, with no sponsorship, now has different partners including, the Ministry of Youth and ICT and the UNDP.

Unlike the Miss Rwanda contest earlier this year that was characterised angelic-looking girls, with many failing in critical thinking, the Miss Geek contest is anticipated to unlocked Rwanda’s hidden tech-buties.

Miss Geek competition targets University and high school students.
Miss Geek, Nancy Sibo in red T-shirt. The competition targets University and high school students.

 




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