Visiting Silicon Savannah

10 Jan

I have just returned from Kenya where I was fortunate enough to spend time with young Kenyans who are undertaking great ventures in and around Nairobi.

Kenya, as an emerging and developing country is jam-packed with social enterprises of all kinds – but especially in the field of technology. Today, it has earned the name “Silicon Savannah” because of the number of innovative tech start-ups that have been developing and flourishing over the past few years.

What really stands out when talking with young Kenyans is their tenacity and motivation. Rather than letting go when a goal is too difficult to realize, they create the circumstances needed to make it happen. Take for example the Nairobi Developer School.

The Nairobi Developer School is run by 19-year-old Martha who wanted to go to the States to learn all about programing. She was accepted by Hacker School in New York but was refused a U.S. tourist visa. Instead of giving up on that dream, she instead devised a project where not only she, but also other women, can come and learn about programming.  The Nairobi Developer School Program lasts three months. It even offers financial support to women who cannot afford it.

There are many infrastructural shortcomings that make connectivity to the web unpredictable in Kenya: unreliable wireless connections, shortage of power, or devices that can’t share connections; however that has not deterred Kenya’s tech savvy. The need for reliable connection in an unreliable environment led to the creation of the BRCK. .  The BRCK was designed by Ushahidi, a non-profit technology company that builds open source software and tools that bring information to people in remote areas and in times of crisis. The team, composed of engineers, developers and technologists from Kenya, wanted to design a tool that would ensure connectivity where connectivity isn’t possible. Watch this video to learn more about the BRCK.

Another noteworthy project that I spent time at is the Montessori Plus Center in Nairobi where the Montessori method is being used to teach students who are blind or visually impaired.

Many people do not know this but Montessori’s ideas for teaching children resulted from her work with a French psychologist names Edouard Seguin who primarily worked with children who were blind. In fact, Anne Sullivan who was Helen Keller’s teacher used the Montessori model of instruction to teach Helen!

I spent some time at the school planning, discussing, and exchanging ideas on how best to prepare the space and the curriculum for the needs of the children. Although I am now in another continent, the school remains close to my heart.

All in all my visit in Kenya was truly inspiring, embodying the very essence of our resilience as human beings.

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