Miriam Kakii (1)

I grew up in Rongai Town, a small town outside Nairobi city. My father owned a desktop computer he used for work. From time to time, he would teach me basic computer operations such as how to power it on and off, and how to use applications such as word processors and web browsers. Not many children my age had the privilege of interacting with a computer. This steered me to start an initiative and volunteer in programs that offered digital literacy training to kids, so they would not miss out on opportunities in the growing digital economy.

 

 

 

Over the years there has been widespread adoption of technology, specifically the internet, around the world. Its universal acceptance has not yet translated to its  integration in education systems with only 10 percent incorporation in developing countries (EduTech). Kenya’s education system falls under the larger percentage as it does not account for web literacy throughout its curriculum. Consequently, this has created a skill gap in computer and web literacy amongst university students. Despite efforts by the government to incorporate computer lessons in primary schools through the Competency-based Curriculum which was launched in 2017, the probability of students succeeding online, particularly those in my community, is still dependent on the knowledge they do not have. How to maneuver on the internet remains the question of what, how, and where. What is a browser, how does it work, and where can one get trustworthy information?

 

I started volunteering as a digital literacy trainer in 2016. Primarily, my knowledge is self-taught, and I learned the rest through an Arduino training while at the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology. My knowledge advanced through some units contained in the Telecommunication and Information Engineering course I undertook. Currently, creating a balance between my fulltime job as a Technical support engineer, a Cybersecurity internet and personal projects has proved stressful, especially now that the COVID pandemic means my shifts have doubled as I am an essential worker. This has not deterred me from dedicating most of my weekends to my volunteering work which involves training kids and planning while in lockdown.

 

Introducing a child to coding improves their problem-solving skills and level of creativity and as a result, impacts their growth and capacity to innovate. Access to ICT facilities remains a major challenge facing most African countries at a 1:150 ratio of computers to students against the ratio of 1:15 in developed countries (Kiptalam). In my community, the situation is made worse due to the lack of electricity in schools situated in areas that are not connected to the national electricity grid. Many schools are still unable to obtain computers for their students despite generous donations by organizations attempting to bridge the gap. Even so, schools that have computers may lack internet access due to the high cost of connectivity.

 

A country is considered technologically advanced by the strength of its coders (FreelanceGig). Kenya has rolled out a Digital Economy Blueprint not only for Kenya but the rest of Africa as well. The Blueprint identifies the pillars of the digital economy such as a Digital Government and Digital Skills and Values. Kenya’s digital government was achieved in 2014 through the launch of public service delivery e-platforms. This was followed by the competency-based curriculum in 2017 in a bid to equip primary school children with digital literacy skills and knowledge.

 

Introducing digital literacy to young children eradicates the fear of new technology as it will better prepare them for their future careers. During special sessions, we host or visit children from orphanages who would have otherwise missed out on the opportunity. The sole intent of the initiatives I volunteer in is to equip children aged between six and thirteen with basic programming and computer skills that are essential in today’s world.

 

Our primary training avenue is the internet as it is a great information resource. Despite limited participation from those who lack internet access, the internet offers a channel for interested contributors to sponsor in-person sessions and a wider audience to exemplify the children’s inventions and creation.

 

Students at all levels are largely affected by their inability to access additional material that could complement their school course work. This, in turn, affects their overall performance compared to students with computer know-how and internet access.

 

Consequently, there is a negative lasting effect on their lives and careers. It is because of this I am creating a structure to guide the delivery of the information we offer to kids. For example, starting from Firefox to search for information, sublime text to write code, and GitHub to share their work but most importantly ensuring they do not share personal information due to the presence of online predators.

 

Open leadership practices have proved essential to the success of my projects. Tasks such as budget development, resource planning, and time management, are appropriately distributed to each member of the team to ensure all participants feel included through managing a key project responsibility. Organizing community events has remarkably demonstrated the benefits of the project and attracted the attention of potential stakeholders. Additionally, acquiring and using feedback from volunteers has ensured we maximize the impact of their contribution by continuously improving our project. Finally, documenting the progress and achievements of the project ensures its continuity.

 

Having successfully trained a little over 300 children, partnering with interested organizations and schools will help us to easily secure a venue for meetups, have internet access during sessions, have skilled tutors as trainers and relevant equipment such as laptops that are pivotal in running the project in a bid to train even more children.

REFERENCES

[1] “Safaricom Official Blog | The Technovation Challenge Returns.” [Online]. Available:

https://www.safaricom.co.ke/blog/the-technovation-challenge-returns/. [Accessed: 13-Apr-2020].

[2] M. Mungai, “12 Challenges Facing Computer Education in Kenyan Schools,” ICTWorks, 2011.

[Online]. Available: https://www.ictworks.org/12-challenges-facing-computer-education-kenyan-schools/#.XpSxDfgza03. [Accessed: 13-Apr-2020].

[3] “Government Officially Rolls out the Digital Literacy Programme in Schools – Ministry of Information, Communications and Technology.” 2016.

[4] Stephen B. Fawcett, “Chapter 1. Our Model for Community Change and Improvement | Section 8. Some Lessons Learned on Community Organization and Change | Main Section | Community Tool Box.” [Online]. Available: https://ctb.ku.edu/en/table-of-contents/overview/model-for-community-change-and-improvement/internet-tools/main. [Accessed: 13-Apr-2020].

https://www.freelancinggig.com/blog/2018/12/20/top-10-countries-with-the-best-computer-programmers/

https://www.ict.go.ke/site-data/uploads/2019/05/Kenya-Digital-Economy-2019.pdf