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ICT as a tool for change

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NairoBits uses ICT as a tool to help young people escape the slums of Nairobi. Working in a fast-moving area such as ICT, it is essential to keep training methods up to date and respond to labour market needs. In this dynamic context, how does NairoBits succeed in keeping the curriculum topical and anticipating new types of demand?

Key words:

  • Creative
  • Innovative
  • Transforming
  • Dynamic
  • Youth Friendly

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In order to innovate and reach out, NairoBits carries out a market survey every two years, recruits young people through community-based organizations, holds training of trainers sessions, runs mentorship programmes, engages guest speakers, holds a curriculum review each year and exposes students and trainers to the ICT industry.

Stakeholders

  • Alumni: act as guest trainers and mentor the young people who are currently being trained
  • Business partners: give labour market feedback and are invited as guest trainers for trainees and trainers
  • Community-based organizations: recruit young people for training
  • Trainers: share best practices and challenges so that learning can be improved
  • Independent consultants: conduct market surveys

How do we ensure the continuous commitment of all stakeholders? By keeping them informed about NairoBits events through newsletters, engaging the stakeholders in the curriculum review process and inviting them to participate in various activities, such as graduation ceremonies.

Resources

ICT is a versatile area that is constantly changing. In order to ensure that NairoBits keeps coming up with innovative ways to train young people, the organization needs to involve its stakeholders on a continual basis.

  • Time: 3 years
  • Equipment: computers, up-to-date design & development software
  • Skilled trainers
  • Resource mobilization expertise
  • Labour market specialists
  • Financing: 50,000 euros

Results

Increasing numbers of students joining the labour market. In order for NairoBits to be able to keep placing students in ICT companies, it is important to develop innovative ideas for improving the training and engagement of companies.
Enhanced visibility and recognition of NairoBits among its networks.
More partnerships with business partners and strategic partners.
Institutional sustainability – this will ensure that NairoBits has the capacity and resources to train beneficiaries in future.
Improved alumni participation in training. We have categorized our alumni as labour market specialists. It therefore important to keep looking for innovative ways to reach out to them.
Continuous improvement of training methodology, by involving business partners and other players in the market to train the trainers.

Lessons learned

What worked really well?

  • Alumni participate in NairoBits activities and give back to the organization through the alumni forums that are held twice a year. The alumni interact with the trainers on the students’ performances and improvements that the trainers could make. They are also invited to give lectures on topics relevant to the labour market.
  • Stakeholder involvement.
  • Improved corporate image.
  • The organization’s openness to learning has created opportunities for new partnerships.

Recommendations

  • Involve stakeholders and work in networks with like-minded organizations. This will enable you to learn from other organizations’ best practices.
  • As well as inviting alumni to events, it is important to keep tracking them to find out what they’re doing now. NairoBits alumni are employed in the labour market that the organization is targeting for its trainees. Involving alumni in current training programmes helps the organization to get feedback from them, as they know the NairoBits curriculum and they work with the business partners.
  • Start an incubation space to nurture talent in NairoBits.

Project sheet Nairobits

Summary

NairoBits uses ICT as a tool of change for youth to escape the slums of Nairobi.

Short facts
Sector: ICT
Lead partner: NairoBits Trust
Overall budget for the project: € 809,190
Learn4Work contribution: € 250,000
Partner contribution: € 559,190
Implementation period: July 2013- December 2015

Vicious Cycle

Kenyan economy is booming, which propels employment. Annually 500.000 Kenyan boys and girls enter the job market, of which 25% will find formal employment. But youth from the slums is heavily underrepresented in the labour market. Education is key in finding a job, and slums generally lack good schools. Often only few children, and even fewer adolescents, go to school. They do not have the skills the private sector demands. Their dropout rates are high. It is no surprise that the majority of the urban unemployed lives in these slums. A vicious cycle of poverty that is hard to break: no schooling, no job. And no job, no schooling for their children.

Digital Design School

NairoBits found a solution to break this chain. NairoBits sets the pace in innovation and ICT. It is a digital design school where young people from Nairobis slums are trained as web designers and cultural entrepreneurs. The organisation equips the youth with knowledge in web design, IT skills, creative multimedia and entrepreneurship in order to improve their opportunities to find a job. Subjects like work attitude, developing self-esteem and general life and social skills are part of the curriculum, too. Students also learn practical skills through internships with Kenyan ICT companies. The initiative has been very successful. So far, more than 75% of former NairoBits students finds a job after their internships.

Feeding their Families

Through the additional funding by this project, NairoBits can train an extra 750 people, (50-50 male-female), on ICT. Within three months after their graduation at least 75% should have a stable job. And there is more. One of the most striking results is that the salary of a NairoBits alumni on average feeds 10 people. Younger siblings, the new generation, benefit as well. Their vicious cycle is broken.

Beyond Borders

The organisation itself also seeks to professionalise. Trainers, for example, participate in an exchange programme with The Netherlands, to broaden their technical and creative horizon, learning from the Dutch ICT sector. And this knowledge is shared beyond the Kenyan borders, since NairoBits is part of a bigger organisation, with ‘Bits’ branches in other countries. All Bits branches are connected through an online learning platform. Ultimately some NairoBits trainers will become trainers in other Bits branches and help setting up new ones.

Public Private Partnership

This project is a productive collaboration between public and private partners. The 30 ICT companies that NairoBits works with play an important role. They provide NairoBits with up to date information on what is new and needed in the Kenyan ICT sector, offer internships, take part in the curriculum review and even act as guest teachers during the training. Butterfly Works is an NGO that coordinates the connecting and learning processes from the different Bits branches in various countries. They also organise the annual exchange between NairoBits trainers and the Dutch ICT company Noblestreet.

Other Contributing Partners:

Digital Opportunity Trust (DOT), Ogilvy Kenya Limited, Digital Divide Data, Jabez Design Studio Limited

Bits Academy consists of three consecutive courses. Each course starts with an introduction, after which the students take part in intensive lessons and work on projects:

  1. Getting Connected – An introduction to computers, the Internet and design
  2. Digital Garage – An exploration of the world of digital design and development
  3. Media Lab – A specialized course in digital design and development

Each course provides students with a toolbox of knowledge, skills and attitudes to enter the digital media and design job market. This toolbox covers four components: creative skills, digital tools, business skills and social skills.

  1. ‘NairoBits has made me into someone who does not get intimidated by anything, someone who will do anything to give her family the life she wishes she’d had. To give her family the home she always wanted for them, to see her brothers join the best university and high school that she never had the privilege to join. To see her baby brother and sister have the best childhood.’ (Susan Wangari, NairoBits alumnus)
  2. ‘I am no longer disadvantaged’ (Tosh Juma, NairoBits alumnus)



NairoBits Trust

P.O. Box 2278- 00200
Nairobi
Kenya
Website: http://www.nairobits.com
Email: info[at]nairobits.com
Contact: Mrs Rukia Sebit

Jabez Design Studio Limited

Kenya
Website: –
Email: jabezgraphics207[at]gmail.com
Contact: Mr Jabez Simwa Nyikango

Digital Divide Data

Kenya
Website: http://www.digitaldividedata.org
Email: reydon.otonde[at]digitaldividedata.com
Contact: Mr Reydon Jakline Otonde

Digital Opportunity Trust

Kenya
Website: http://kenya.dotrust.org/
Email: kenya[at]dotrust.org
Contact: Mrs Robina Mwaura

Ogilvy Kenya Limited

Kenya
Website: http://www.ogilvy.com
Email: koome[at]ogilvy.co.ke
Contact: Mrs Margaret Wachira

Noblestreet

Netherlands
Website: http://www.noblestreet.eu
Email: helpdesk[at]noblestreet.eu
Contact: Mr Arnoud Goudsmit

Butterfly Works

Netherlands
Website: http://www.butterflyworks.org/
Email: inspire[at]butterflyworks.org
Contact: Mrs Hanja Holm