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YouTube Worldview Interview – Rwandan President Paul Kagame on Tech

June 3, 2011  »  VideoNo Comment

As many are aware, Rwandan President Paul Kagame actively maintains a Twitter account and a YouTube channel. Based on such social media habits, President Kagame can be considered among the most tech-savvy African (or even global) leaders. In fact, President Kagame’s technological prowess is a supporting reason he was chosen to answer a variety of user-submitted questions as part of a YouTube Worldview Interview.

During the interview, President Kagame addresses themes of genocide, foreign aid, democratic elections, education, and job creation. Although the main purpose of the interview is to explain to the world how a nation can restore political and economic climate and prevent genocide, much time is devoted to the theme of technology. In fact, roughly eight of the forty-seven minutes are address technology in some form.

Indeed, Mr. Kagame eagerly mentions positive trends in how technology stimulates economic activity and how government can use social media to better interact with citizens. In the interest of time, he paints a very broad picture of the Rwandan tech scene. Not once does Mr. Kagame mention mobile, although he alludes to innovation. Later on, Paul Kagame asserts that the Rwandan genocide would not have been “different” had it happened given today’s technology. That is, Mr. Kagame is confident that positive voices would have stood out; however, he does not explicitly state that the genocide would have been entirely prevented.

Typical to YouTube, many commenters focused on ethnic lines and none seem to focuses on technological futures. (Only 55% of those who rated the video “liked” it.) Dwelling on the past is not the answer and instead we need to focus on positive change.

Included below are questions posed to President Kagame that involve technology, along with a general transcription of President Kagame’s response.

What advantage do developing countries have when it comes to new technology? What potential do you see for mobile technology in improving the lives of Rwandans? (31:35-35:21)

Developing countries have an advantage because they can leapfrog. They don’t have to go through re-inventing the wheel, it has already been invented. We just go to the best – to the latest – that there is already. This is a very huge advantage. Again this is an advantages to those that see the opportunity. The fact that it is there is not enough. New technologies provide new opportunities. They support entrepreneurship, they support innovation, they support creativity. They constitute a business themselves. They present economic activities that people can benefit from. They serve as drives and tools that we can use to develop economic activities. For Rwanda, we are using not only these technologies but we can make them accessible to our people and make sure people are able to use them. And affordable. We build from there. Information technology is very critical. It informs our people. It gives them an enormous amount of information and ways, and therefore means, And they can also communicate. Once that exchange takes place it tells society to accelerate their development whether it is government or development or different aspirations for the country.

You personally use social networking websites like Twitter. Do you think modern day leaders & government officials should use these platforms as a means to reach young people or as a means to broadcast vital information? (40:55-43:20)

My experience with the use of the social media is that yes, it gives an opportunity to communicate with a very wide audience, even abroad. So it comes with a wealth of information and ideas. The whole value of connecting with the people and doing so it provides a platform to air your views, hear from other people’s views. It’s very instructive, indeed. I try and subscribe to making use of social media. I benefit, maybe other people will benefit too. It creates a healthy link with a wide, even global audience, not just a domestic area.

Considering today’s technology and access to it that everyone has, do you think had we had this kind of technology 17 years ago that what happened could have been prevented? (43:20-45:08)

I think, yes, this institution would have been much better if we had this 17 years ago. It would bring more awareness. It would be a process of liberalization for a good cause. It would be more positive than negative. Negative people abuse it, but I believe there would be more use for the better cause than for such negative ones. Some of the activities that took place were hidden from the eyes of the general public. Voices would have come out to say it is something else. There would have been more people challenging things that were happening. Certainly the matter would have been different.