Saturday 24 March 2018

Rwandan leader pledges €50,000 to help perfect Joanne's robot

Businessman Denis O’Brien greets Rwandan president Paul Kagame at the UN Broadband Commission conference. Photo: John Ohle
Businessman Denis O’Brien greets Rwandan president Paul Kagame at the UN Broadband Commission conference. Photo: John Ohle
Joanne O'Riordan
Colm Kelpie

Colm Kelpie

Rwandan President Paul Kagame has pledged €50,000 to help perfect the robot created for teenager Joanne O'Riordan.

Robbie the Robot was built for Ms O'Riordan, who was born with the rare condition Total Amelia, which has left her without limbs.

The prototype robot was built by experts at Trinity College in just three months with the help of €50,000 provided by a United Nations agency specialising in information and communications technology.

It was unveiled last week.

However, more work and research needs to be carried out to perfect the robot, and funding must be secured.

President Kagame pledged the money after hearing about the project for the Cork teenager while attending a two-day international broadband conference in Dublin.

And more money was expected to have been pledged last night by private companies at the UN Broadband Commission for Digital Development meeting, hosted by businessman Denis O'Brien.

"There are some major corporate entities from all around the world that are represented on the broadband commission," Mr O'Brien said.

"I think they are going to generously give to this piece of research in Trinity.

"It's just a matter of tapping them on the shoulder."

The prototype humanoid robot features a 7-inch LCD 'face', arms, torso and a single 'leg' which uses two wheels to roll around, and is an early example of what developers hope to one day present to Ms O'Riordan.

Ms O'Riordan appeared at the UN 'Girls in ICT Day' conference in April 2012 and challenged delegates to build her a robot.

The UN's International Telecommunication Union pledged the original €50,000 in funding.

Meanwhile, the UN Broadband Commission is a top-level advocacy group, established in 2010, which focuses on strategies to extend coverage around the world, with a particular emphasis on accelerating progress towards the United Nations Millennium Development Goals. The commission said that access to broadband could be the universal catalyst that lifts developing countries out of poverty .

Taoiseach Enda Kenny attended the closed-door meeting yesterday evening in the Shelbourne Hotel.

Mr O'Brien later added that Mr Kenny had said talks were taking place with a number of companies to bring new transplanted cables into the west of Ireland.

"He was saying that he thought that would be a catalyst to bring broadband to rural Ireland," Mr O'Brien said.

Irish Independent

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