This year, Girls in ICT Rwanda in partnership with Smart Africa secretariat expanded the competition to all its member states to crown the first ever Ms. Geek Africa. Among the top 17 contestants from various transform Africa member states, Ruth Njeri Waigano, emerged the winner of the 2017 Miss Geek Africa and walked away with a Rwf3 million cash prize that was presented to her by First Lady Jeannette Kagame. The event concluded last week at the Kigali Convention Centre. She had a chat with Women Today's Sharon Kantengwa about her project and opportunities for the future.
Tell us about yourself?
I am studying Computer Science at the University of Nairobi and I'm in my fourth and final year. I love technology because it's so broad and things keep changing so you have to keep learning. I like reading books; they say that the book is always better than the movie. I read self-help books to help me become better.
Tell us about your project and what inspired it?
In my school when you get to fourth year, you are required to come up with a project, so I had to think of a project to do. A very nice professor gave us project suggestions and mentioned that there was a project he was working on where they were collecting data from matatus (public transportation) in Kenya. He told us one of the things that the data could be used for is driver profiling, and I decided to take up the idea.
When an accident happens, an insurance company doesn't have real time information showing when, how, who and where the incident occurred. They rely on Police inspection reports that are sometimes not accurate. My technology solution responds to transport problems like frequent accidents and collects data through a mobile app, 'Safe Drive'. The data will not only be used in driver profiling, but also, analysing the data on the road and can alert the driver of traffic congestion on a route.
Are there chances that your project will be developed into a fully functioning solution for Africa?
I'm currently working on it as a fourth year project in school, and maybe with that I can test it out and see the response it gets first in Kenya. It is a good project, especially for improving road safety.
How popular is tech innovation amongst school going girls in Kenya?
It is not as popular as it is in Rwanda. I was surprised to find the youngest among us in the Ms Geek competition was Crystal who is 16. My sister is 16 as well, but she is not exposed to technology innovation like that. There are, however, some competitions called 'science congress' where high schoolers also innovate. I attended one in high school and now there are programmes being carried out to teach high school girls to code, so the next step I guess might be innovation.
During your time as Ms Geek do you see yourself changing the state of affairs in regards to girls involving themselves in STEM?
I knew I had to share my story on how I got to Ms Geek in order for more girls to reach out for these opportunities. I had also started a mentorship programme before coming to Ms Geek in my school to mentor the first and second year female students.
This was a competition that involved ideas from several African states. Did you think that you could win?
I wanted to, I knew I could, but the other projects were good and the other girls were good as well. So there wasn't a point where I was sure, but I knew all I had to do was my best.
During the competition, why do you think you beat the other girls?
I think it's because I worked on the questions the judges had asked previously in-depth and totally incorporated in my pitch. With the questions they asked in the final pitch, I was able to answer most of them nicely showing I really knew about my project.