This post was guest-written by Juliana Rotich, a consultant at Novato Africa, technologist, strategic advisor, entrepreneur, and keynote speaker. She is the co-founder of BRCK Inc, a hardware and services technology company based in Nairobi, Kenya, and Ushahidi, a non-profit tech company, which specializes in developing free and open source software for changing how information flows in the world.


There is an oft-quoted line that says, “Talent is evenly distributed, opportunity is not.” This is something that became clear to me on a recent visit to the most remote technology hub in Lodwar, the home of Learning Lions and Startup Lions.

Lodwar is the capital of Turkana County in Kenya and is fast becoming an important location for young people from nomadic, pastoralist communities to get an education, and ultimately, a job.

However, Lodwar has 3G coverage and a line from the National Fiber Optic cable, which is not fully connected yet. Thus, connectivity is basic at best and not as robust as it could or should be.

3G-coverage map courtesy of Communications Authority of Kenya

I had the honor of speaking at the opening of a new building for self-directed learning, where I got to hear about the journeys of Learning Lions students who learned how to create websites and multimedia work, 3D modeling, and animation and design — just a few courses offered at Learning Lions.

What happens when connectivity is provided?

Even with basic connectivity, Learning Lions showed me that connectivity creates opportunity. Knowledge becomes more accessible, so students can complement the instruction they receive with online knowledge and additional training. Students can also connect with online communities in their field to learn more.

Trailblazing global problem solvers

Last year, I had the honor of speaking at the graduation ceremony for the first cohort of Learning Lions, where I met a group of youth ready to advance their skills. Among them were Isaiah Mutekele and Enomat, who went on to become Startup Lions entrepreneurs and were finalists in the first ever Aeromobility startup competition in East Africa.

This story of young people getting trained, honing their skills, and becoming entrepreneurs encourages me. What has become clear in my experiences with Learning Lions is that there is talent in Turkana, just as there is in Nairobi or New York. Indeed, talent is evenly distributed, but opportunity is not.

That’s why I’m proud to partner with Cisco to help extend opportunity to as many hubs, locations of learning, entrepreneurs and global problem solvers as possible.  The Cisco Global Problem Solver Challenge is just one of many such opportunities to show how the ideas, technologies, and solutions of young innovators can help benefit the economy, society or environment.

With Learning Lions, we see what connectivity, knowledge and opportunity can bring forth, and my hope is that we can not only support, but elevate the work of young people in Kenya and globally.

If you’re a student or recent graduate with a technology solution that could make an impact on the world, apply for the Cisco Global Problem Solver Challenge here. With $300,000 in prizes to accelerate your product or solution, now’s your chance to truly digitize and do more good.

Submit your solution by December 1, 2017.


Austin Belisle

No Longer with Cisco