Computer Aid Supports Training for Computer Coders in Kenya

On 14 July 2012, Computer Aid International in conjunction with our partners Coders4Africa conducted a one-day Boot Camp to teach Android and J2ME coding (computer programming) languages to university students in Voi, Taita Taveta District, Kenya.  Computer Aid’s Africa Regional Office acts as Program Manager for the Kenya Country Chapter of Coders4Africa.  Coders4Africa is an independent nonprofit organization that provides training, education and development infrastructure, logistics and intellectual support to IT professionals in Africa.

Most Computer Aid/Coders4Africa Kenya events are held in the Nairobi area.  This special Boot Camp came at the request of student government leaders in Taita Taveta who had been prevented by distance from participating in the Coders4Africa Kenya Chapter.  Computer Aid, with donor support, agreed to sponsor this traveling Boot Camp coupled with an Exchange Visit in order to broaden our geographic support for the coding community in Kenya.  Computer Aid’s Training Coordinator travelled with the Coders4Africa Technical Manager and eight university students active in the Chapter to carry out this event. Continue reading

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Why I Volunteer at Computer Aid

Allow me to introduce myself. I’m a 20 year-old student who was raised in Kenya. I’ve spent most of my life in a private school in Mombasa, one that is fully furnished with tables, chairs and (most importantly, to me) computers. However, the block next to that school was a public school that was visible to me every second of my primary and secondary education; cracked windows, no desks or chairs, peeling paint and no form of technology at all. Those images still remain burned in my mind, 4 years after leaving Kenya to move to the UK.

Computer Aid really attracted me as a place to spend my summer volunteering, as they are one of the principle providers of IT equipment to schools like the one I remember. They have bestowed over 200,000 PCs to schools and hospitals in third-world countries, and have recently been sending zubaboxes (mobile solar internet containers) to communities in Africa. Their approach of nurturing the recipients’ technological skills is also very commendable, as many charities give the proverbial man lots of fish instead of teaching him how to fish. Computers, unfortunately, do not grow on trees. Computer Aid gets old computers via corporate and individual donations, and a team of volunteers data-wipes them, refurbishes them and prepares them to be sent to the developing world. Every PC is asset-tracked, which means an individual donor who’d wish to know where his old ACER laptop has travelled to, can find out exactly what primary school it currently resides in.
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Computer Aid’s Africa Regional Office takes part in World Telecommunication and Information Society Day

World Telecommunication and Information Society Day is marked across the world on 17 May, in recognition of the signing of the first International Telegraph Convention on that date in 1865.  The International Telecommunication Union (ITU), an organ of the United Nations that works on issues of information and communication technologies was born from that first convention, and organizes the annual event worldwide.

The theme for the 2012 event was announced as Women and Girls in ICT.  The ITU Secretary-General Dr Hamadoun I. Touré released a Call to Action in line with that theme which included the following recommendations:

  • Promote national policies encouraging girls, teenagers and women to study and take up careers in ICT.
  • Support ongoing work aimed at building capacity that will enable women and girls to independently and competently use ICTs.
  • Develop and implement national policies to restructure current education systems and infrastructure with the objective of integrating science and ICT-related subjects with mainstream curricula to better respond to present industry needs and standards as well as future ICT workforce requirements.
  • Develop broadband connectivity and inclusion for all, in particular women and girls, through broadband backhaul, wireless or wireline, and including satellite communications.
  • Connect all institutions, in particular schools, and encourage them to foster gender equality.

In addition to projects and programmes targeting women and girls as noted above, organizations across Africa hosted special events during the entire week.  Computer Aid International’s Africa Regional Office was invited to take part by giving presentations at functions in Kenya and Tanzania.

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Computer Aid’s new Chief Executive visits some of the projects now benefiting from donations of ICT equipment in Nairobi, Kenya

This week, Computer Aid International’s new Chief Executive, Tom Davis visits Nairobi to meet with our Africa Programmes team and some of Computer Aid’s partners

Mukuru Kwa Njena in Embakasi is one of Nairobi’s slums, and contains within it Our Lady of Nazareth Primary School, where Computer Aid International supplies its refurbished computers through its partners Computers for Schools Kenya (CFSK). When we went to the computer lab, about 50 children were engrossed in a PowerPoint exercise – we tiptoed in and walked around the aisles looking at the presentations that they were building.

We were on a visit with CFSK to one of the schools to which they provide computers as part of their programmes delivering information and communications technology (ICT) to educational institutions in Kenya without a lot of either. Although school was out this week, a class of 8th form students was studying for their exams, and CFSK arranged this as part of my induction as the new Chief Executive of Computer Aid, this week visiting the Kenyan part of the Computer Aid team. We made our way here in a 4X4, which just about managed to negotiate deeply rutted dirt paths, dodge crowds of pedestrians, and deftly navigate carts full of chopped wood, roadside displays of bags of charcoal and neatly stacked chevrons of toilet paper. Sometimes this was only possible by slowing to a halt, backing up, driving forward, backing up again, twisting the vehicle like a rubber band around all the obstacles, meanwhile bouncing up and down deep crevices in the earth that passed for a road. Our expert driver navigated perfectly, except for taking the wrong left and leading us to a market and a seeming dead end. Then we turned around, and we were lucky to meet someone he knew who put us on the right path, and we jounced and jerked and juddered towards the school. Driving down a side road off the main path, we came to some gates, and once we drove through, left the external chaos behind. The compound we found was neatly arranged in rows of low one storey buildings and we were escorted to the middle of a row of buildings and into the computer lab. While we walked around, I stopped to speak to Frances (not her real name).

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Would your company sponsor a ZubaBox?

Today’s an exciting day at Computer Aid towers as we are launching the ZubaBox for corporate sponsorship! The ZubaBox is constructed from used shipping containers and fitted with computers which run on solar power and has been developed to provide rapidly deployed low power computing solutions to areas that may otherwise not have access to electricity or ICT such as very rural areas or disaster zones.

One of the main barriers to sustainable development in many communities is the lack of electricity and internet and we hope the ZubaBox will provide one of the solutions to this issue and help bring forward numerous ICT4D projects in rural communities.

A number of ZubaBoxes have already been deployed to inKenya and Zambia and have had really positive benefits on the local communities.

Schools are sharing access to the ZubaBox, giving hundreds of children the opportunity to learn new skills and boost their future employment prospects. Local individuals have received IT training whilst entrepreneurs are using the internet to research business ideas and access new markets. Farmers are accessing local weather forecasts and adjusting planting and harvesting times to increase agricultural productivity and food security. Furthermore, healthcare practitioners are able to go online to receive up-to-date training and communicate with the wider medical community.

Because the ZubaBox provides ICT anywhere and to anyone it has the potential to positively impact all areas of development – health, education, business and agriculture – in one single project.

With companies increasingly looking for corporate responsibility projects that make a real and lasting impact on poverty relief we really hope that there will be lots of interest!

If you think your company would be interested in sponsoring a ZubaBox then please click here for some further information or send an email to corporate@computeraid.org

We are hoping to send 10 ZubaBox’s to rural communities by the end of the year and we need as much support as possible to achieve our target!

For more pictures of the ZubaBox please see our Flickr account.