WeCode: Empowering Rwandan women through job creation
Rwanda ICT Chamber, German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ)
Coding, Digital literacy, Entrepreneurship, Leadership, Skills development, Women
Career counselling and professional development
Information and communications technology (ICT) is one of the fastest growing industries in Rwanda. The country aims to become a regional ICT hub through initiatives such as the Smart Rwanda Master Plan. Although Rwanda’s ICT sector is mostly dominated by telecommunications, there is an evolution towards information technology (IT) services. The market for software and IT services is estimated to triple mainly through Information Technology Enabled Service (ITES). To fuel this growth, more internationally qualified IT specialists with a focus on ITES are needed. Rwanda’s ICT sector has the potential to create jobs and to contribute to overall economic growth in the country.
While Rwanda ranks ninth out of 153 countries in the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Index, and first of the 34 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, there are still significant gender divides in the country as pertains to technology. According to UNESCO’s Institute for Statistics, women represent less than one-third (31.5%) of all students in ICT programmes in higher education. Since 2000, there has been a big push to integrate ICT into the education curriculum, but more efforts are needed to ensure female representation.
WeCode is a pilot project of the Rwandan ICT chamber with financial and technical assistance by the German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit) and as commissioned by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ, Bundesministerium für wirtschaftliche Zusammenarbeit und Entwicklung) under the #eSkillsforGirls initiative.
The project worked to close the gender gap by supporting Rwandan women in the IT sector with or without prior knowledge in ICT. The planning of this pilot project started in 2016. The first course started in September 2018 and the pilot phase ended in December 2019.
The WeCode course concept is based on two pillars:
In the national approach, women were trained over a period of 25 weeks to become full-stack or mobile-app developers. The focus lies on teaching digital skills. Graduates were then matched with local employers.
The international market approach was specialized in technical services which are increasingly being outsourced by companies. The programme consisted of a two-month competency-based training providing skills in Quality Assurance (QA) Software Testing, and work-readiness competencies needed to adapt to the needs of clients in the quickly changing IT sector. Participants were trained in teams, ranging from project managers to QA experts. The graduates gained work experience with WeCode in a four-month internship, where they continued to work in teams on international tech service projects brought into and delivered in Rwanda.
The WeCode courses were designed so that participating women regularly have the opportunity to meet potential employers, make contacts and build their own network. They benefited from the existing networks of the implementation partners and the Rwandan ICT Chamber. Regional implementation partners are including Technology, a Rwandan-Canadian tech services company located in Kigali, and Moringa School, a multi-disciplinary coding school from Nairobi, Kenya, also supported job placements. Muraho Technology implemented the international approach, while Moringa school was responsible for the national approach.
With a graduation rate of 87%, the international approach course have been very successful. In addition, 41 graduates passed an examination before the International Software Testing Qualification Board to gain international certification in Software Testing. WeCode carried out the test for the first time in Rwanda.
Job placement in the Rwandan market works. With the help of the regional implementation partner, graduates of the programming courses in the national approach were successfully placed in jobs and internships. Based on the findings of the pilot phase, the possibility of a second phase will be discussed. The current status indicates that 36% of the women participating in the international approach found a job. A full analysis of WeCode is expected in 2020.
One of the most difficult aspects of this project was finding a reliable local partner for the recruiting process
Good English skills are central to learning programming and must be given a higher weighing in the selection process
For vulnerable groups, participation in full-time courses is difficult
Scholarship opportunities beyond the enrollment of tuition fees or a modular part-time course concept could be a solution
In order to get the graduates into the international market or to acquire international projects, a mediator with a good network and industry knowledge is necessary.
EQUALS Global Partnership. 2019. I’d blush if I could: Closing gender divides in digital skills through education. Paris: UNESCO.
EQUALS Research Group. 2018. Taking stock: Data and evidence on gender equality in digital access, skills and leadership. Preliminary findings of a review by the EQUALS research group. Geneva: International Telecommunications Union (ITU).