Q: Please tell us about yourself and career path?
Ogiga: My name is David Ogiga, I'm the Director and board member Kasigau Wildlife Trust, a community led enterprise that coordinates biodiversity conservation and sustainable socio income programs. Among the projects is the Sote ICT that donates equipment and helps learners be competitive, innovative and generate tomorrow’s jobs using technology.
Q: Tell us about Sote ICT: What is it, who is it and what it does (its programs and initiatives)?
Ogiga: Sote ICT is a project we have been managing last five years in Taita Taveta high schools Kenya with the core purpose of nurturing practical ICT and business skills in young people. The Swahili word “Sote” means everybody and which describes our philosophy of inclusion and search for high social returns. We focus on rural schools with no or limited ICT exposure but the biggest added value is the ability to combine the concepts of student ICT Clubs, practice companies and international student cooperation and to provide continuous support to both educators and students. Our project has impacted 5,000 students, 200 teachers and we have donated hundreds of computers, multimedia equipment, software and tools. The project has got support from Slovak Aid from the Republic of Slovakia. Pontis Foundation is our great invaluable partner.
Q: Why Sote ICT (the reasons behind its creation)?
Ogiga: The youth unemployment is a global challenge. Quality Education, Skills and Employment are at the heart of Sustainable Development Goals as recently adopted. In Kenya, 81 percent of workers are employed in the informal sector and jobs for young people are scarce and fragile. The core purpose of Sote ICT is to nurture practical ICT and business skills in young people that will enable them to become qualified and responsible future employees and business owners who support sustainable development of their country.
Q: Can you elaborate on the various aspects of your cooperation with iHub?
Ogiga: iHub supports our outreach programs. Every school calendar year, we organize mini workshops around the schools on various topics of entrepreneurship, design thinking, careers, basic IT to complex problem solving skills. The students are always happy to hear and learn from Africa's pioneer start up hub. We also organise regular trips of our students to iHub centre in Nairobi and link our students to their various programs, events and meet ups such as Akirachix bootcamps, coding, Craft Man ship, User Experience Research, Show and Tell, IBM Start Up Hour and many others. This experience, support and partnership with iHub will extend to the Sote Hub.
Q: Can you please share a few words about the upcoming Sote Hub?
Ogiga: The Sote Hub will be a space for the Sote Cohorts and the community to incubate their ideas and start ups. Among the benefits include Co-working space, Incubation, Networking, Space facilities for meetings, conferences, seminars, events and trainings, Impact outsourcing, Sote Hub Research & Consulting to organisations and the communities at the Coast and everywhere else in Kenya. We are welcoming partnerships from iHub and Taita Taveta County Government. In 24 months, we project at least 15 new start-ups will leave incubator and at least 50 equivalent of fulltime employment positions created.
Q: What are some of Sote ICT's greatest accomplishments to date?
• Since inception, we helped to educate 1,200 members of ICT Clubs at 10 secondary schools from Taita Taveta County in practical computer and business skills. Before the end of the year, we are adding two more girl schools to the family to bring our total to 12 schools.
• Students established and manage 24 practice companies that are registered in Practice Enterprise Network and do business among themselves and students abroad. They have twinning programs with students from Slovakia and Germany. The 'practice companies' range from a virtual bank to an exotic Kenyan fruit juice company to an Insurance firm and to an investment company. During the school year, students create brochures, video adverts, blogs, business plans and accounting documents and actively trade among themselves. They also have real partners including Kenya Commercial Bank in Voi, Wildlife Works and Madison Insurance who mentor them continuously.
• Donation of 200 computers, projectors, laptops, cameras, copy machines and assorted IT equipment and internet. Over 5,000 students and 200 teachers impacted.
Q: What is next for Sote ICT in the "The Bigger Picture"? Any plans of expanding the Sote ICT's model to other African countries?
Ogiga: We aim to create a big dent on Kenya's youth unemployment. Our engagement with the government is for curriculum change and to make it relevant to learners and their life after.
And Yes, we would like to expand into Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania and Ghana. Most nations in the Sub Saharan Africa are at crossroads. They must be able invest in skills development for school leavers and the successful transition to the workplace. Only then will Africa reap from the youth bulge.
Q: Finally, what are the critical steps in your opinion that policymakers have to undertake to increase literacy in general, but specifically scientific and technological literacy amongst (a) girls and women, and (b) remote rural populations in Kenya and other African countries?
African governments must rethink the traditional focus of education as just providing the prerequisites of a white collar job in the formal and urban sector to more practical and applied skills. The second step is to reposition STEMs (Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics) in our curriculum. According to African recruitment and temporary work agencies, the most difficult sectors in which to find candidates with tertiary education are those that need specific technical qualifications, such as the extractive industries, logistics, the chemical and pharmaceutical industries, manufacturing in general and agri-business (AEO survey). This is appalling especially if Africa is to realise the industrialisation dream. Kenya has set this agenda in their development pathway known as Vision 2030. Everywhere in the continent, there are mega construction projects ongoing. In Kenya, we have the multibillion standard gauge railways from Mombasa to Kampala. The Mombasa Nairobi section alone is 609 km and will cost $3.8bn and the contractor is China Road and Bridge Corporation. It will further run to Kigali in Rwanda with a branch line to Juba in South Sudan. That is all good; the only problem is that as at 2015, there is no supposedly Kenyan or East African Engineering firm with potential to carry out projects of such magnitudes. So when will we build such local capacities?
Definite policy steps must be actioned to position our countries. For example in 2008, the Ethiopian government introduced a policy designed to shift the balance of subjects in all public universities towards the sciences and technology, on a 70:30 basis. This will pay off in the long term as in their own assessment, they found out that graduates of medicine, engineering and technology generally have better employment opportunities inside and outside the country. Girls and women in rural areas must not be left behind.