Cisco Blogs

Creating Greater Equity with Emerging Technologies in Kenya

- June 21, 2010 - 1 Comment

I recently went to Nairobi, Kenya and Kigali, Rwanda to meet with some of Cisco’s employees, customers and partners.  I have a lot to share and this is the first in a series on what I learned and experienced.

I visited The Seed Institute Cisco Networking Academy on May 25th and it was a life changing experience in so many ways. Most of all it showed how emerging technologies can create opportunities by providing access to new skills. The Academy is in the Mwiki Slum in Kasarani, Nairobi and trains girls and women from disadvantaged backgrounds.

It is the first of its kind to train house girls and with the hope to help them get better jobs. More specifically, the goal is to train women and youth on ICT skills with two groups:

  • Housegirls: are girls who do house chores such as cleaning, cooking, laundry, etc. They get paid up to $50 per month from which they have to feed their families, pay fees for their siblings’ education and a host of other fees. These girls are forced to drop out of school and are unable to get a university education. To get the girls to attend, Cisco and Seed leaders needed to convince the house girls’ employers to allow them to attend IT Essentials classes during the day.
  • “Hasslers:” are women who have faced many hassles including rape, sexual abuse by their own relatives; some are commercial sex workers who are trying to transform their lives. They hold regular sessions with them on job opportunities available for in the ICT field, the need to get certified and have a valuable skill that will change their lives.

These girls and women receive the opportunity to change their lives as they can transition from part of the population who does not even get counted in national statistics to being able to get a job that requires IT skills.  Rosemary Muthoni, a graduate from the Academy, managed to get placed in a workshop for computer repair two weeks after completing the coursework.

The workshop where they learn basic IT skills

What I learned is that while this academy can start the process of helping, there is a lot more to be done to make it sustainable.  Some of the challenges they shared with me include:

  • Lack of resources force the training to be done in shifts as there are not enough computers to train all the girls
  • There are efforts being made to find employment opportunities for the girls and a career fair was recently held to share interviewing and job hunting skills.  In an exercise where they were asked to draw where they see themselves in a few years, three of the women drew themselves running academies to help others better their lives with ICT skills. The fair encouraged others to join the Academy as they were encouraged that they can make changes to their lives.  There is hope but help is also needed in finding employment.
  • The community does not fully understand the program and the girls need help to understand how the programs can benefit them.   You can see that in the Flip video I shot of a skit they performed for me (apologies for the quality but it was hot and not a lot of space to get the right angles).  

Are there ways you can help around sustainability?  Please share your ideas here and let’s have a conversation on what is possible …

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  1. It's not only about skills, but also about equipment. I know of 1 or 2 companies that specialise in providing used and throw-away computer equipment from the west to the third world, but the idea of recycling the equipment from the average business is not so widespread yet...