I’m a lonely soul who works alone in Kigali. Just me and my computer. Occasionally I wander Kigali’s cafes in search of a decent internet connection, power outlets that work, a good-sized table, some coffee and food, and, most important, contact with the outside world. Spending too much time on my couch in front of my computer makes me a bit crazy. Seriously. Bomberiously.
I know Kigali is full of interesting people working on some very cool projects. I meet them at parties, I hear them talking about their amazing projects when I’m at cafes, I see creative things happening in the city and lonely ol’ me wants to be apart of it, dammit!
Enter kLab. As a website developer myself, other website-y and geek type things get me excited and kLab aims to be a hub for IT action and innovation in Kigali. The kLab tries to address the need for a space for people working in Kigali’s IT community. Somewhere for them to interact, share ideas, help each other out, and teach each other, all while forming a community willing to work together to push the IT industry in Rwanda forward. A place with reliable internet and a nice working environment to bring solo IT workers together to collaborate, network and push the IT industry forward. Coming from a partnership of public, private and educational institutions, kLab was born and exists as a not-for-profit workspace aimed at capacity building for the IT industry. It’s primarily funded by JICA (Japan’s version of USAid) and the Private Sector Federation and the Rwanda Development Board has donated the sixth floor of the Telecom Building, internet, power and all that practical stuff.
The location in Kacyiru is central and stunning. The view from kLab is one of the best I’ve seen in the city and the main office area has over a 180 degree view across the city. If you wander around the floor a bit, you can see Kigali from any angle and they even have an outside area with a foosball table! It’s pretty inspiring and I wonder if I’d spend more time staring at my computer screen or staring out the window.
Access to the kLab is free, you just have to apply as either a tenant or mentor. The idea is that mentors will be people more experienced in IT or business who will dedicate a portion of their time in the kLab to helping the tenants who could be students or recent grads with less experience in the field. To be accepted, tenants must have a project of some kind on the go – something they’re working on when they come to the workspace – so that it doesn’t turn into a glorified internet cafe. Tenants have to pitch their ideas to a membership group and their progress will be evaluated every several months.
Likewise, mentors have to fill in an application and then give a 5 minute pitch for why they’d be an asset to kLab’s tenants and they’re reassessed every few months by the tenants to make sure they’re still being useful. It all sounds a bit scary but the intention isn’t to be constantly kicking people out, but instead to keep things moving forward, helpful and creative.
The kLab people plan to have it open seven days a week, from early in the morning until late at night with a manager on at all times. Plus they’re hoping to use the space for events, movie nights and to lure IT people who are passing through Kigali in to give talks and share their knowledge. They plan on being the hub for all cutting edge IT
activity in Rwanda.
The view is amazing, the desks the perfect height, the office filled with creative people working on interesting projects, there will be a cafe serving up coffee, cold drinks and snacks… a perfect spot to help push Rwanda’s IT industry forward. If you’re in IT and plan on being in Kigali for awhile, you have to come check this space out. If you have a project to work on, apply as a tenant but if you’ve got experience to share then pitch yourself as a mentor and join in on what looks like it’ll be a really exciting thing for IT in Rwanda.
I spent about 20 minutes at kLab and already have ideas for how I could help people and how they could help me. I’ve got some new projects brewing in my brain and am really excited to get involved to tap into the nerd knowledge around me and hopefully share some knowledge of my own. Plus I really want to play some foosball. Bonus!