Rwanda IoT

Research IoT Rwanda

Join our team researching Internet of Things technologies and policies in East Africa. Each year, a team of students will collaborate with Dr. Maitland, together with faculty from Carnegie Mellon Africa and University of Rwanda, as well as their Penn State advisor.

Why IoT? Why Rwanda?

Rwanda is a innovative country, located in the tech hub of East Africa. The country has made IT a pillar of its development plan, attracting investments and making it the choice for Carnegie Mellon’s Africa campus.

IoT technologies will play a critical role in the country’s development, but also have the potential to connect into the global ‘Big Data’ ecosystem. Students will gain research skills while understanding the global context of IoT as well as Big Data.

Also, IoT technologies are very flexible and can be used in a variety of application domains, including agriculture, energy, migration, the environment and much more.

To apply – We are now recruiting for travel in spring of 2023. Please contact Dr. Maitland about potential opportunities. Consult our possible projects for 2023.

As an example of past research, read more about our ‘Drones and Agriculture‘ project. See our paper ‘Agency and Extraction in Emerging Industrial Drone Applications: Imaginaries of Rwandan FarmWorkers and Community Members‘ for greater insight.

For Faculty

Penn State faculty interested in having their student(s) involved in the program should contact Carleen Maitland to discuss potential research interests.

The overall program is funded through NSF’s International Research Experiences for Students (IRES) program. This program is intended to have U.S. students join research teams in an international location, providing the students with exposure to research cultures in different countries. In this case, students will join research projects being undertaken by faculty in Rwanda. While this creates some constraints on the type of projects, there is some flexibility.

It is expected that students will develop publishable research papers from this experience, with the Penn State advisor playing a role (to the extent this is desired by the advisor). Ideally, students will participate in group meetings (or a one credit seminar) in the spring prior to the field research period. In the fall, upon their return, the student is expected to participate in a more intensive course (2 credits) to reflect, process data and write a publishable paper. This paper will be written together with the faculty team and may include other students.


Fulfilling the promise of ‘Big Data’ requires accurate and timely data from countries across the globe. Internet-of-Things (IoT) technologies, such as remote sensors and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), have the potential to contribute to global data hubs.

However, most IoT applications and their data structures are designed to solve local problems, such as crop protection and local food shortage predictions. With funding from the National Science Foundation, this project will train 18 U.S. master’s students (6 per cohort) in multicriteria design of and policies for IoT systems with the aim of making local IoT data available to global data scientists.

The project involves collaborations with professors/mentors at University of Rwanda and Carnegie Mellon Africa, both in Kigali, Rwanda, the former of which serves as the Center of Excellence for IoT under the World Bank’s Eastern and Southern Africa Higher Education Centers of Excellence program. Through the collaboration, students will receive interdisciplinary research training in wireless networks, software engineering, policy studies and sociotechnical systems. This interdisciplinary training will enable designs of low cost IoT systems, usable in a range of contexts, including the U.S., while increasing access to data by biology/agriculture and forced migration scientists. The training will also enhance students’ as well as the project’s advisory board, consisting of academic scientists and an industry innovation professional, on information and communication technology (ICT) innovations systems in East Africa, expanding global perspectives within the U.S. IT workforce.

For more information, contact Dr. Carleen Maitland at

Funding provided by NSF through award #1827170