Computer for Schools Kenya: Reaching Remote Communities with DigiTruck
Having promoted ICT in education for 17 years, Computer for Schools Kenya (CFSK) is now applying its considerable expertise to managing the DigiTruck program in Kenya. Designed to spread the benefits of digital technologies to as many people as possible, DigiTruck is a shipping container that’s been converted into a fully equipped solar-powered mobile classroom. The truck brings digital skills right into the heart of remote, rural, and marginalized communities, including those without a power supply or Internet access. It also trains teachers to deliver the training courses, ensuring that the project is self-sustaining.
DigiTruck has so far trained 1,145 students and 100 teachers in 6 counties in Kenya.
In this series of posts about the DigiTruck project, we talk to students, trainers, and project partners about how the project works, what it means for individuals and communities, and how it contributes to Kenya’s socioeconomic development as a whole. DigiTruck is part of Huawei’s non-profit digital inclusion initiative TECH4ALL.
In this post, CFSK Project Manager Joseph Oliech shares his experience with DigiTruck –the value, the challenges, goals, and moving forward.
Huawei Blog: What kind of barriers does Kenya face with digital literacy and what are the major causes?
Joseph Oliech: The main barriers to digital literacy in Kenya are as follows:
- Lack of infrastructure: Access is necessary for digital inclusion, but most rural communities in Kenya don’t have institutions with the right computing devices for training in digital literacy training.
- Lack of qualified trainers: There are few experienced trainers in rural Kenyan communities with a deep understanding of digital skills that can be passed on to potential beneficiaries.
- Lack of connection to the Internet: Rural Kenya has very poor Internet connectivity, making it difficult for internet users to gain meaningful results from the online world. The government has launched the ambitious program of providing the Internet to rural Kenya, a factor that will definitely contribute to higher productivity.
Huawei Blog: What in your opinion are the most valuable aspects of the course delivered by DigiTruck?
Oliech: Introduction to Digital Literacy, Internet and Email, Google search engine, Ajira Digital, Safety, Facebook, WhatsApp, Wikipedia, and YouTube are the most important practical components of the DigiTruck program, but entrepreneurship and e-waste management are also key features.
Huawei Blog: What kind of benefits can students expect from attending the course?
Oliech: Learners gain the skills, knowledge, confidence, and positive attitude for handling computing devices. Participants are able to register their businesses online and communicate effectively using various applications. The Ajira Digital course specifically gives them a platform to reach for jobs online, and caters for trainees’ diverse backgrounds and interests. They can search for market information online and make their small businesses profitable. Young Kenyans are now using YouTube, Facebook, WhatsApp and other social media platforms to market their skills and businesses. Online work and the power of social media marketing helps participants to gain considerable income that improves their socioeconomic circumstances.
Huawei Blog: What are your major goals for the DigiTruck project in 2020?
Oliech: We’re looking at reaching at least 5,000 underprivileged community members in locations where the electricity grid and Internet connectivity penetration are low. In addition to digital skills for community members, we are employing special focus on training teachers from marginalized areas to prepare them how to utilize the Internet and digital skills for remote coaching through e-learning. This is as a mitigation measure due to the kind of disruption that COVID-19 pandemic has created for learning institutions. Teachers who can’t use the internet to deliver learning materials remain jobless, and learners who can’t access e-learning materials or the Internet are also greatly disadvantaged.
Huawei Blog: Can you explain the partnerships behind the DigiTruck? What are the advantages of its mobility?
Oliech: Huawei brings on board the key missing link in digital skills literacy, which is the infrastructure. CFSK brings on board a rich history of skilled trainers and experience in working with marginalized communities and teachers in digital literacy programs ranging from content development, training, maintenance and technical support. CFSK also provides project management services.
DigiTruck mobility enables rural communities to access digital skills training in places that experience hardship that lack a power supply and conducive infrastructure.
Huawei Blog: How would you like to see DigiTruck expand in the future?
Oliech: The major challenge with the current DigiTruck is the turnaround time and overhead costs with mobility. An additional DigiTruck could help teachers and developing content for schools, while the first one could be dedicated to youth and community members. Having a dedicated truck for pulling the DigiTruck will improve logistics and reduce overheads. Demand is high, as we’re serving 47 counties of Kenya with a rural population of about 35 million.
Huawei Blog: How does the DigiTruck project and your own projects feed into Kenya’s broader, national-level ICT planning?
Oliech: Vision 2030, Kenya’s Long Term Development Blueprint, aims to create a globally competitive and prosperous nation, transforming Kenya into a newly industrialized, middle-income country that provides a high quality of life to all its citizens by 2030 in a clean and safe environment.
ICT is identified as an enabler and the foundation of socioeconomic transformation. The Vision recognizes the role of ICT in the modern economy, and for that, knowledge plays a central role in boosting wealth creation, social welfare, and international competitiveness. The mission for CFSK programme is to bridge digital divide in Kenya by providing Digital Skills training to less fortunate members of society, especially those without power supplies. The DigiTruck project helps us to reach out to most difficult and areas that experience particular hardships, making social inclusion possible through ICT empowerment.
About the Author
Joseph Oliech currently serves as the project manager for Computers for Schools Kenya (CFSK), a national NGO registered in Kenya with a presence in 15 African countries.
An alumni of Egerton University Kenya where he studied computer science, Joseph has been engaged in ICT education programs for the last 9 years, with a focus on rural communities, educators, and learners. He has a wide experience in digital skills training, e-learning systems, ICT integration in teaching and learning, and electronic waste management.
Joseph’s key expertise is in the design and implementation of digital skills programs for youth at all stages, women, rural communities, and e-waste management.
He shifts seamlessly between big-project strategies and the smallest details of technical execution to help partners and beneficiaries connect the dots throughout their project implementation.
He has so far spearheaded digital training programs with over 40 international NGOs, corporations and government agencies benefiting youth women and rural communities in Kenya, Somalia, Uganda and Malawi.
CFSK has been implementing its ICT in education program for the last 17 years across the nation, with a special focus on bridging the digital divide by deploying ICT infrastructure, providing training in digital skills, introducing e-learning solutions in learning institutions, and instructing in device maintenance and e-waste management.
We have so far deployed over 420,000 computers and trained over 100,000 tutors, subject teachers, heads of institutions, educational administrators as well as community members on digital skills and ICT integration in teaching and learning.
In a quest to preserve, conserve, and protect the environment, CFSK established the first e-waste management facility in Kenya – The Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Centre (WEEE Centre) which collects, scraps, recycles, and safely disposes all electrical and electronic waste.