Eric from Complitkenya, Call to action: We've built the first IT centers in rural Kenya and now starting the first Digital Library. Get involved!
Eric was introduced to me by his colleague Beavon, both being my fellow Edu hackers. Just within a year, they managed to build from nothing three IT centers in rural Kenya and they are such a great success that they strive to build at least one centre in each of 20 County Wards in Nyamira County.
And now they come up with the idea of the first Kenyan's digital library. These efforts simply must be heard and nurtured, don't you think?
Follow Complitkenya on Facebook or visit their websites.
You are also welcome to connect to Eric and Beavon directly.
1) Could you introduce your team and tell us what lead you to the idea of opening an IT centre in your area?
My name is Eric Kimori, the Executive Director of Complitkenya, which is a community based organization seeking to promote the uptake of ICT services in rural areas of Kenya. I work with an excellent team of young professionals. Beavon Magare is our Field Officer, Douglas Kamanda is in charge of Projects Administration while Lydia Kemunto is the Finance Officer. Others include Joshua Omare, Scholastica Onyancha and Stephen Ndege. Due to the documented evident reality in the community about the ever widening digital gap and that rural populations are increasingly being left behind in the technological development, the need for modern and well equipped Community Access Centres to address this gap was hatched at the formation of Complitkenya. We were motivated by the glaring reality in their community about the ever widening digital gap and that rural populations have been far left behind in this technological development, hence the idea behind opening of IT centres.
2) How have you started? Where have you got your first computer, how did you find a space for the centre?
We started from scratch, so to speak. When we started, we borrowed three computers from a well wisher which we used to establish a community ICT centre at Esani market. The centre's first goal was to train the locals on basic computer knowledge. We decided to begin from trainings because the government's statistics indicated that only 2% of Nyamira county residents were computer literate which of course is a huge gap to fill. And for people to begin appreciating ICT inclusion in their daily business, it then makes sense that they have to be computer literate. Since we did not have financial resources, we requested a local primary school to provide us with a room to begin the centre which they obliged.
3) Do you have a support of local government or non-profit organisations? How have you gathered funds?
Yes, we have support of the local government although it has not matured to the level of funding. We do hope the local government will support our projects financially. Indeed, when we recently hosted the global hackathon event, the county government supported us with meals and transport for participants. We have recently begun discussions with other local community based organizations and non-governmental organization but no financial obligations yet. Therefore, we have not been funded so far. However, the learners at the centres pay very little registration fees which helps us to provide them with examinations and certificates.
4) How was the first official opening day like?
When we announced to the community that we were going to graduate the first of group of learners of basic computer knowledge, there was ecstasy among the locals. We used the occasion to also officially launch and promote our programs. We invited local leaders, the county government, educationists and the community at larger. The event was a huge success I must say. Many of the locals were surprised that people from among them had completed a course in computer applications and were now graduating. We used to sensitize the people on the vitality of digital inclusion in every sector of the economy.
5) How is the center organised and how looks a typical day there?
The ICT centre is as informal as possible. We have clustered the learners according to their needs and levels of education. Therefore, we have two-hour classes throughout the day for learners to learn both theory and practicals. It forces the learners to share a computer sometimes up to five people. Our team of volunteers take the classes in shifts allowing each other some rest in between classes. At any time of the day, there is someone in the front office to handle the learner's issues or visitors or other enthusiasts. The centre opens at 8.00 am each day of the week, and closes at 7.00 pm daily. When someone new expresses their interest to join classes, they are taken through the regulations which include filling an admission form. They are then admitted to join a suitable cluster.
6) What was the biggest challenge and your biggest lesson learnt - is there anything you know you will do differently when building new centres?
The biggest challenge has been finances, since we have been operating without any financial support from anybody. The biggest lesson learnt is that for any community project to succeed, there is need to include the community at all levels of implementation so as to make them own the initiative and therefore attract their active participation. When building new centres, one thing we must do differently is to lay a workable strategy which will include intensive community mobilization.
7) Recently you organised Edu Hackathon event - what have you discussed? Any new ideas came out of it?
After successfully hosting an Edu Hackathon event in Nyamira County, Kenya; our staff went for a day's planning retreat to discuss the way forward. Since there were very pertinent issues that emerged from the hackathon, we have written a comprehensive report detailing the discussions during the event and the recommendations thereafter. The most important idea that emerged out of the hackathon is the building of the first public digital library in Nyamira County to improve the dwindling education standards in the county. In fact, there is not even an analogue library in the entire county at the moment. Complitkenya is currently developing a funding proposal to begin fundraising on crowd-sourcing platforms to raise funds to build the library.
8) What advice would you give to anyone around the globe who would like to start his own center?
For anyone intending to start an ICT centre anywhere on earth, it needs a lot of sacrifice. You may have to sacrifice your time and even resources. The beginning point may be sheer volunteering for quite some time. Remember the locals may not always appreciate what you are doing to improve their lives. So patience and understanding will make them buy into your vision which could bear fruit in the long run.
9) You plan to open another 3 centers in next few months in your county, what are your other plans and dreams?
Yes, we intend to open more centres so as to cope up with the increasing demand for ICT services. Our dream is to see at least one modern operational multipurpose ICT centres in the each of the 20 County Wards in Nyamira County. We want to see centres that not only train the locals on basic computer knowledge but also provide other services such as cyber, market information for farmers and businessmen, e-learning opportunities, e-government services and much more. We also dream of building Nyamira County's first public digital library, which may as well be Kenya's first.
10) Is there anything you would like to add?
Finally, it is our appeal to the international community that we need their support. We are in need of various resources which include financial, material and human. We need finances as well as computers, laptops, tablets, furniture. We also need volunteers to support our mission. This is a passionate call for well wishers to support our activities. Thank you so much.
If you are interested in finding out more, have a look at the article in Nairobi Daily.