Kenyan Youth to Sustain the Momentum of Digital Change with Raspberry Pi Centres

Kenyan Youth to Sustain the Momentum of Digital Change with Raspberry Pi Centres

By Willice Onyango

by: Dr Peter Day, University of Brighton
Mr Willice Okoth, International Youth Council, Kenya


The existence of a common good as a social construct can be trace back over 2000 years to the ancient Greeks and Romans. Philosophers such as Plato, Aristotle and Cicero considered issues such as justice and equality to be central elements of civilized society. Citizenship, collective or communal action and participation in the public realm of politics and public service were deemed vital to the emerging political democracy. In effect, the common good philosophy countered the belief that society was composed of atomized individuals living in isolation from one another with responsibility only to themselves. The common good philosophers believed that people can and should live as citizens embedded in the social relationships of civil society.

Despite millennia of social and technological development the competing political philosophies found in the richly diverse human relationships of the modern network society appear to have changed little when stripped down to basics – individual, passive consumerism versus the collective common good of civil society.
Community Media 4 Kenyapartnerships for the common good
Nowhere has the spirit of civil society partnerships for the common good been exhibited better in recent times than through the innovative collaboration between the University of Brighton and International Youth Council of Kenya. Community Media 4 Kenya (CM4K) has, over the past 4 years, been developing its partnership education: action research & learning scenarios (PEARLS) approach to Community-based learning. Drawing on experiential learning processes – students in their final year of the BA (Hons) Media Studies Degree at the University of Brighton have been developing an action-based community media partnership with partners from Kenyan civil society.

The PEARLS approach requires students to engage with Kenyan youth to identify the needs of the partnerships; audit and map existent skills; consider how these assets might be used to address needs; plan and develop all aspects of the partnership activities; create and test the interventions in the field; and reflect critically and dialogically at each stage of the process.

To date, much of the CM4K work has been of an experimental nature – focusing on student facilitation of capacity building workshops with Kenyan youth. The workshops plan and implement community digital story-telling sessions using video, audio and photography; teach participants the mechanics of photographic, audio and video practices; engage participants in live blogging as well as train how to plan, story-board and shoot a video and podcasting as a community building process.

To quote Tom – a youth beneficiary of one of the workshops;

“I would not have a had a chance to to acquire indispensable skills in ICT and peace had it not been for the invaluable efforts of the visiting Brighton University students together with their dedicated lecturer Dr Peter Day. The extensive 3 day training in Kibugat, drawing young participants from diverse tribes in Kenya was a significant achievement. It enabled an integration of the youths under a realisation of common shared national philosophies, values, principles and socio-economic matrix. The Kibugat training came against the backdrop of devastating tribal electioneering bloodshed that rocked Kenya in 2008. It was a relief to see youths and invited elders embrace and make declaration of never again to allow tribal divisions or feud. To this end, ICT training particularly film making was essential to equip the youths in their numbers from ethnic diversity to tell their stories and take the message of the need for peace using technology. I was one such beneficiary of the film making training.”

CM4K activities are totally self-financing, although we are seeking to move on to the next phase in the partnership’s development. For now however, students who elect to participate in the Community Project module, become part of CM4K and collaborate on the planning and implementation of fundraising activities to finance the implementation of the fieldtrips. The fieldwork also relies heavily on the skills, knowledge, expertise and enthusiasm of the students and Kenyan partners.

Despite the experimental nature of the early years, the evidence of increasing interest among community partners in Kenya was compelling enough for the University of Brighton to formalize the fieldtrip into the UG curriculum and identify it as a significant contribution to the Faculty of Art’s Impact Case Study submission to the Research Excellence Framework (REF) which recently assessed the quality of research conducted by UK Higher Education Institutions (HEI).

Facing the future – Community Media Centres (CMCs)
The work between CM4K and International Youth Council of Kenya collective over the past four year has resulted in the establishment of a plan for a network of Community Media Centres – headquartered in Ngong, Kenya. This is a community initiative that aims to educate young people on media and emerging ICT technologies. Adopting a training the trainers approach, the program empowers youth by building their capacities and capabilities to apply ICT to solve problems they encounter in their day to day lives and ultimately become a leading center for empowerment of youth through media and ICT in the region. At the planning stage, the partnership has identified the Raspberry Pi as the ideal learning tool for blogging, programming, accessing information, communications and knowledge sharing. The Raspberry Pi is a credit-card-sized, single-board computer that is both robust, versatile and cheap, hence making it both affordable and ideal for working in marginalized communities with little available funding or resources. Additional input and output devices such as monitors, keyboards and mouse and laptops will be acquired.

We all agree that computing skills are becoming more and more important in the technology driven world that we live in today. Basic knowledge of ICT is required in almost everything that we do. In schools, it is the fastest moving subject and is part of every other subject that is studied. In the business world computing has changed how business is conducted. For instance, the emergence of mobile devices and use of web technologies has resulted in businesses requiring and increasing number of technologically savvy employees.

Despite all of these developments on the global stage, developing countries continue to lag behind in the ICT sector. A study by the Kenya ICT Board in 2010 showed that in Kenya, for every 100 people there were only 2.4 computers. Internet penetration at the time was only at 25.9%. This is especially worrying considering that in 2012 the United Nations General Assembly declared access to the internet as a basic human right.

These statistics paint a dark future. Children who grow up without access to ICT will be virtually unemployable once they complete their education, owing to the fact that all aspects of the job market are heavily reliant on information technology. This concern was shared at the Geneva Convention back in 2003, where the WSIS Geneva Plan of Action was drafted to enable developing countries to seize the benefits of ICT and use them to accelerate their economic developments as they worked towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals. It is therefore very important that this problem is arrested otherwise the rates of unemployment will go keep rising- compounding to the already worrying levels of poverty in Kenya.

The Community Media Center and Technology has come up with a project that will help improve the penetration of ICT in Kenya. The project will start in rural areas where the problem is more prevalent than in urban areas. Ngong will serve as the nerve center playing coordinating role to future centers in different communities in Kenya.
The project aims to find ways to incorporate ICT in the day to day activities of the students at the college and high schools. This will be done by leveraging the existing clubs and societies and forming networks of community digital clubs to demonstrate ways of doing things that they are already do manually using ICT as a practical way of engaging with technology and shortening the learning curve greatly. The center will show the participating students how computing can be used to enhance learning in other subjects while benefiting from the experience of young IT experts and volunteers sourced from the local community and institutions..

The complexities of communication in contemporary society have moved way beyond those found in ancient Greek. Today the socio-technological systems available to us include online deliberations, sense-making, argumentation and discussion-mapping; community ideation and idea management; collective decision making; group memory; participatory sensory networks; early warning systems; collective awareness and crowdsourcing to name just a few. Through the Center for Community Media and Technology, we shall empower young Kenyans to code on their phones and computers at early ages, promote creative arts through recoding digital music and ultimately increase democratic participation of Kenyan youth in computing and society at large.

Day, P. & Okoth, W. et al, 2014. Partnership Education: Action Reasearch & Learning Scenarios: Community-based learning through empowered voices. 6th Living Knowledge Conference Proceedings. Copenhagen, 9th-11th April, 2014.
Velasquez, M., Andre, C., Thomas Shanks, S.J., and Meyer, M.J., 2014. The Common Good. Markkula Center for Applied Ethics, Santa Clara University, Ca.

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