Fem Bosses; Meet Clarisse Iribagiza, A Rwandan Making Big Marks with ICT
What is the first thing you think of when you hear the word “geek”? Like most people, you will probably think of a male technician working behind some super-computer and doing some number crunching. While this might be true in most cases, you might also want to know there are some women who are also doing a remarkable job in the ICT business. It is only a shame that more often than not, they seem to fly under the radar.
Clarisse Iribagiza is one such woman. She is a 24 year old Rwandan lady with a passion for the ICT business. She is the CEO of Hehe Ltd; a mobile computing technology company. Her contributions and achievements in the ICT world completely rubbishes the stereotype that ICT is a man’s world. She is quoted having said, “I think it’s basically stereotypes in our culture, which present anything to do with technology as a man’s world, that prevents girls from embracing ICT. This also affects the way it is taught in schools, which results into a vicious cycle and few girls in ICT”.
Clarisse studied Computer Engineering and Information Technology at the Kigali Institute of Science and Technology. When she was in 3rd year, she and a team of other 3 students from the same learning institution conceived Hehe Ltd. The word “Hehe” is a Kinyarwanda word meaning “Where”. Hehe Ltd’s main goal is to change Africa as a whole, by making it an ICT society. It achieves this by developing products that increases the flow of information to people. These products can be classified as below, each of which satisfies the ICT needs of a specific niche:
- Enterprise: Hehe.com enables more than 80 SMEs to interact with their customers while on the go. This is enabled via mobile and web based platforms conducting extensive marketing campaign geared towards meeting the businesses’ goals of establishing a superior brand loyalty and growing their customer base.
- Education: Hehe.com has a digital platform that enables Girl Hub Rwanda through the NiNyampinga project which motivates more than 12,000 girls to achieve their goals. The ultimate goal of the project is to enable 1Million Rwandan girls achieve their full potential which is in line with Rwanda’s Vision 2020.
- Public Sector: Hehe.com has established a mobile communication system that provides the general public access to public information and services. This because the organization has a deep appreciation to the fact that excellent delivery of public service is crucial in improving the lives of the general public.
In addition to the above mentioned contribution by Clarisse to ICT, she is actively engaged in promoting tech entrepreneurship through iHills which is an association of Rwandan youths in ICT that helps tech-startups. She accomplishes this by being a member of a Think Tank member of the World Entrepreneurship Forum’s Global Shapers Kigali Chapter.
In 2012, she participated in the competition dubbed Inspire Africa Entrepreneurship reality TV show which had 24 young and brilliant minds from all over East Africa (like The Apprentice by Donald Trump) and she won the competition. She was then awarded USD 50,000 and used it as a business growth capital. While in the tech-business, she demonstrated excellent entrepreneurship skills which lead to the Imbuto Foundation presenting her the CYRWA 2013 Award.