President of Rwanda pledges €50,000 for robot for Joanne O’Riordan

24 Mar 2014

Joanne O'Riordan

President of Rwanda Paul Kagame pledged €50,000 in additional funding for a robot for Cork teenager Joanne O’Riordan, who was born without arms or legs. Kagame made the pledge at yesterday’s UN Broadband Commission in Dublin.

O’Riordan has a rare condition called tetra Amelia.

In 2012 she addressed an ITU delegation for ‘Girls in ICT Day’ in New York and  issued a challenge to engineers to build her a robot that would be able to assist her day-to-day, particularly to pick up things she has dropped.  A team at TCD’s School of Engineering led by assistant professor Kevin Kelly took up the challenge.

On Friday a prototype built by the Trinity College engineers called Robbie the Robot passed a UN inspection by the secretary general of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) Dr Hamadoun I Touré.

At a UN Broadband Commission press conference on Sunday, Digicel chairman Denis O’Brien, one of the co-founders of the commission, revealed that Kagame was going to match a contribution of €50,000 from the ITU for that project.

“And I hope that some major global corporations are also going to give generously to this research,” O’Brien reminded the companies.

“It’s just a matter of tapping them on the shoulder.”


Pictured: Robbie the Robot

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years