Introducing the “Vijana” App at European Public Policy Conference In Madrid

The unprecedented rapid growth of technology in the last decade has not escaped the attention of the spectrum of global stakeholders, especially policy and decision makers. This development arouses many questions: How to reframe the educational system to teach young children about artificial intelligence? How to establish effectively smart cities? How to adapt to the new industrial era being dubbed “Industry 4.0”? These were among the main questions discussed at the European Public Policy Conference this past March in Madrid, under the specific theme “Syncing Societies”. As an attendee and presenter at the conference, I, Jean de Dieu Cirhigiri, spoke on a mobile application that I am currently introducing in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which connects rural farmers and cities households by creating affordable fresh food markets, alleviating Congolese youth unemployment in the process.

After the formal launch made by the former President of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), Mr. António Da Cruz, a panel of professionals, from both inside and outside the European Union (EU), discussed the initiatives, progress, challenges, and sustainability of existing smart city models. Although the steps towards smart cities are relatively new, initiatives have been developed across the globe, but are facing strong challenges that hinder effective implementation. Ayona Dutta, an activist in gender and smart cities, illustrated this with an example of a program aimed toward controlling violence abuse via camera devices in India, which did not produce positive feedback, despite its convincing design.

Drawing from an interdisciplinary approach, the sessions also included a discussion on the intersections of technology and society from different CEOs and businesspeople in the global technology industry. Among them, Georgios Griodoriadis, the founder and CEO of Baresquare, a digital analytics company, introduced the discussion on the linkages between policy-making and current technology, including artificial intelligence. This discussion led to triggering questions, such as: Is tech reinforcing inequalities? Can tech align with human goals? Is tech an existential threat to humanity? The efforts of finding answers to these essential questions fueled the panelists and the curiosity of public policy students.

As part of the Youth Forward Congo1, an organization that I co-founded, I also introduced a mobile app called Vijana, which can take steps towards reducing inequalities of rural farmers and urban households and curbing youth unemployment in my hometown of Bukavu in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. “Vijana” in the Swahili language refers to youth, and the idea behind the app is for the youth to directly contribute to the community. The app seeks to create the market for rural farmers that have been suffering for decades from a deficiency in added value of their products, and, at the same time, to facilitate access to affordable and healthy foods for urban households. Additionally, the project will reduce unemployment of the Congolese youth in two ways: the performance of research and administrative jobs, and the creation of incentives for them to participate in the production, as well as distribution, phases.

A new industrial revolution is no longer the future; it is already here. It is crucial for policymakers to understand the essence of this transformation and how to positively approach it. Although much remains to be done, this conference helped me in understanding the urgency of action and achieving a broader perspective. Additionally, I am certainly hopeful that the Vijana mobile app will have the European Public Policy Conference as an important part of its origin. I would also strongly recommend to my readers to participate in conferences, workshops, and other programs that create an environment of speaking with and listening to others, as part of the learning process and developing a meaningful network.

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Jean de Dieu, is the Co-Founder and CEO of Youth Forward Congo. He is currently a first-year student at the Willy Brandt School of Public Policy. Before that, he was the Student Government President at Université Catholique de Bukavu where he graduated in Economics and Finance. He is a Scholar of Open Society Foundation and the German Academic Exchange Services (DAAD). Jean de Dieu believes that entrepreneurship is key and equal access to opportunities is vital.

9 Responses

  1. Daniel Lubigho

    A very good idea Mr Jean de Dieu. Congratulations to this presentation. After reading this article, just one question came into my mind: What will make the rural farmers to start using the application (cause the way I know them, they are not really much into the new technology world)? Is it really productive? Thank you.

  2. Jean de Dieu Cirhigiri

    Hello Daniel. We as the Organization will be in Charge of inserting data about their production in the app and Household in the cities, aware to manipulate a mobile app will be using it for booking and purchasing.

  3. Gloire

    I’m so glad to read this paper. It’s very interesting
    Go ahead bro !
    A. Gloire

    • Jean de Dieu Cirhigiri

      Merci beaucoup mon Frère!

  4. Bienvenu

    Dear Jean de Dieu many thanks for coming up with this innovative idea, we look forward to see its impact on the field.
    However, i would like to know when are planning to launch the implementation.


    • Jean de Dieu Cirhigiri

      Dear Bienvenu, I am so glad to read you back. We are planning to start with documentation in the very coming future. It will include creating the database of the actual producers in the rural area, what do they produce and where exactly. so we can know how to locate our infrastructures when we will have to start distribution to households. We aim to combine with some willingness study of households to adopt the new technology and key stakeholders contacts.

  5. Bienvenu

    Dear Jean de Dieu many thanks for coming up with this innovative idea, we look forward to see its impact on the field.
    However, i would like to know when are you planning to launch the implementation.


  6. Ancert Mushagalusa

    Toutes nos félicitations Jean de Dieu pour cette initiative. Au nom du groupe des jeunes étudiants entrepreneurs dont vous aviez coaché en mois de mars 2018 à l’Université Catholique de Bukavu lors du séminaire d’échange en ligne avec les jeunes étudiants entrepreneurs belges dans le cadre de Food Waste Innovation Network, pensons que les mécanismes de création d’emploi des jeunes au travers cette application nous permettra de réaliser nos projets de développement dans le secteur agricole au sein de notre province du Sud-Kivu, RDC.

    • Jean de Dieu Cirhigiri

      Merci beaucoup Monsieur Ancert. Oui je me rappelle le projet que j’ai eu à vous coacher en ce qui concerne le Food Waste Challenge avec les Partenaires de Belgique. Je pense que une fois le projet lancé, je n’hésiterais de vous contacter pour voir comment nous pouvons travailler ensemble.