I was raised in Mogotio, Kenya, in abject poverty. At nine years old, I collected wild vegetables on my way from school to cook for my younger sister. The only way I knew out was by studying. So I studied. I studied hard. And I ended with a full-ride scholarship to Augustana College, IL.
I was majoring in Chemistry before I discovered computer science my junior year of college. I loved it. With only three semesters left, I decided to get a degree in it. I also built a school with the aim of fostering digital literacy. I doubled down on my work-study program, got some donations from friends and four months later I launched Zawadi Preparatory (https://www.zawadiprep.tech). We admitted 30 kids at its launch in January 2016. Barely 3 years later, we are at 150 kids.
In summer 2018, we built a computer lab at Zawadi Prep. We collected computer donations, bundled it with elementary OS along with open source education software. There is no broadband internet, so we downloaded terabytes of content for our local server including Wikipedia and Stack Overflow. We showed the villagers how to make a Rails app at our free after school program.
I cannot think of a better success story than the one of my seven-year-old niece, Michelle. My friend came over to the lab. Michelle asked, "do you want to see our content?" They were like, "sure." She then opened up a computer, navigated to `192.168.0.2` and said, "look, we have all these." I teared up a little bit. I did not teach any of that.
Our goal for 2019 is to build 10 more computer labs in 10 different Kenyan schools. I always wanted to end poverty. To me, teaching digital literacy is the best way I know how. We now have over one hundred donated workstations. To meet our goal, we need a few hundred more.
More than happy to lobby for such initiatives with my employer and philanthropic network.
I contributed, in part, to the establishment of things like NairaLabs and Usahidi amongst many others.
Unfortunately, I am not taking on projects in Kenya anymore. Everyone else is doing Kenya and Kenya is, sad to say, saturated with these kind of projects that they end up conflicting.
I am happy to work with you guys on a more devolution focused effort. I'm more interested in other countries rather than Kenya. I spent a number of years there and outside to know that there are other places that need more help than Kenya.
I know it doesn't sit well with people, but I really am not for creating a Goliath of tech in Africa (i.e Kenya). I prefer decentralized development where the whole continent grows together. Also, Kenya is one of the most impressive countries i know. The amount of talent and ambition there is breathtaking and I have no doubt that those folks will take it places. I am not from Kenya, and would like to see development in Africa rather than Kenya only. There are, so far, very few to negligible, trickle down stories of "Africa Rising" beyond the usual suspects Kenya, SA, Nigeria etc.
But yeah, I am ranting now, if ever you do expand to other countries, keep me in mind. Especially smaller hubs like Zambia, Zimbabwe, Ivory Coast, Senegal, where the interest and talent pool are just as great. The project looks great (though the site could use more information) and I wish you all the best regardless!
Do they have to be 100% in working condition? What about condition, age, OS, Mac, etc? How do we ship it and where? How does African parcel shipping work?
Also, you could probably collaborate with some tech companies who cycle their laptops for devs after upgrades come out. Then it could be something they’d like to advertise like a banner of social good work on their company website about pages (which would drive more traffic to your site).
Finally, you could have a progress bar of how many laptops you need to reach goals. Saying you only need 50/100 more or something will make individuals feel they are making a significant contribution and that other people are donating. So it’s not going into a black hole but to a clear need. The updates and progress on Kickstarter and gofundme are a big part of the UX.
I’m from Ghana,from a poor family. I sold kerosene to support my family at the age of 7. I worked very hard until I was scouted by a soccer academy in Ghana called Right to Dream Academy. I then got a full scholarship to attend High School at Dunn School and then earned my college degree at UCSB. I played professional soccer college in Major league soccer for Columbus Crew and I’m currently a grad student at Pepperdine University getting my masters in Nonprofit Management. My goal is to give back to underprivileged children and I’m hoping to partner with you guys. I hope to hear from you.
I have a very similar experience as your and can clearly relate . Somehow, I am also working on something similar with other folks, with a specific focus on Guinea (https://www.guineapromise.org/programs/mobile-lab).
One thing that we are realizing is that the scale of the work to be done is such that we have decided to shift our objective to be an inspirational one. We advocate, lobby and inspire schools, local governments to build science labs.
Is your focus mainly with computer labs, or are you interested in general purpose science labs?
I've got a pop-up computer lab with 10 stations and the whole setup only cost a few hundred bucks.
Used laptops are not that more expensive, but they are beefier, the UX is better.