🇰🇪 Technology in disrupting existing inequalities among refugees in Kenya amidst COVID-19

The long awaited day was finally here as the Techfugees(TF) Kenya chapter was being relaunched. With the insights of experienced panelists the webinar moderated by TF Kenya, Chapter Co-lead, Mary Munyoki, was a great success. Techfugees Global Coordinator, Louise Brosset, began the webinar by providing a brief history of the organisation and highlighting how Techfugees impacts the global community through its network of engineers, designers, entrepreneurs, humanitarians, researchers,innovators and volunteers across the globe. Further, Louise pointed out the initiation of the Techfugees Data Hub in March 2020 with the sole purpose of mapping the impact of COVID-19 on displaced communities.

TF Global Coordinator, Louise Brosset, providing a brief history of Techfugees mission and impact

Next was, Philomena Mwangi, TF Kenya, Chapter Co-lead, who shared a presentation on the activities of the chapter for the entire year of 2020 and beyond including Meetups, Bootcamps and Hackathons. Philomena stressed out the role of and need to strengthen partnerships with humanitarian actors, the tech community, corporate organizations and institutions such as universities and colleges, as well as the necessity to involved more displaced persons. Moreover, Philomena emphasized on the importance of research to uncover the present challenges being faced by displaced persons in Eastern Africa and how research supports the creation of solutions that can be deployed to make a positive impact on the lives of displaced communities.

Philomena Mwangi, TF Kenya Co-lead, sharing on Chapter activities roll out

Opening the discussion, Jared Owuor, the Regional Operations Officer from Samuel Hall talked about existing inequalities in education, health and employment. Jared elaborated on how the camp settings do not suit technology-mediated-learning because the internet and smartphones are out of reach for many households due to connectivity challenges and to the cost of data when the internet is available. Jared further explained how the pandemic has highlighted profound inequalities and structural weaknesses that already impacted refugee communities. The second panelist was Priyanka Patel, innovation Officer at Kenya Red Cross, who expounded on the inequalities among refugees in Kakuma and the need to ensure inclusivity in relation to mobility and access to services and technology. 

Johannes Ebert, the co-founder of Gravity.Earth added that technology is an enabler with different layers: basic infrastructure services and empowerment, and we ought to use available resources to make a difference amongst displaced communities and businesses. Further, Benson Githaiga, Community Manager at the Aga Khan media Innovation centre, expounded on the need for a constructive structure to enable technology to be accessible for refugees.

Finally, Elly Mathenge, Strategic Business Developer Lead at Oracle Africa, concluded that there has to be an intentional and deliberate effort to ensure that partnerships are leveraged to ensure that we empower refugees with technology designed for and by them.

At last, we were amazed to be joined by Abri Yusif, a refugee at Kakuma Camp. Abri, a Computer Science student at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT), elaborated on the impact COVID-19 has had on the communities in Kakuma. He especially stressed out the restrictions on transportations and decline in businesses and economic activities and how TF Kenya aims to bridge such gaps. Finally,  the Faceless hackers team, winners of the TF Kenya 2019 Hackathon, expressed their gratitude and the relevance of the insights shared on the webinar and how beneficial it was in the application development roll out at Kalobeyei camp.

We appreciate the presence of all our partners and would like to thank you all: panelists (Elly Mathenge, Strategic Business Developer Leader-Africa, Oracle, Johannes Ebert, Cofounder Gravity, Jared Owuor, Regional, Operational Officer, Samuel Hall, Benson Githaiga, Community Manager, Aga Khan Media Innovation Centre, Priyanka Patel, Innovation Officer, Kenya Red Crosss,)  Techfugees Data Hub Contributors, Rose, TF Kenya Volunteers and all our attendees who made this relaunch successful. Thumbs up to you all.

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