To strengthen digital livelihoods, fundamental barriers must be lowered and addressed, such as access to digital devices (mobile phones, laptops), access to stable internet connectivity, poor digital skills literacy, and difficulty in charging mobile devices.
For digital connectivity, refugees in Kakuma require access to devices (i.e. laptops/desktops/mobile phones) and stable broadband internet connectivity. However, the high cost of mobile/internet data, poor signal strength, unaffordability of devices, and difficulty in charging devices are significant barriers that refugees in Kakuma face to get connected.
High cost of data. In Kakuma, a significant proportion of disposable income is required to purchase mobile data. Moreover, the majority of the refugees have no means of securing payment as most of them are in informal jobs.
Poor mobile network strength. Since Kakuma refugee camp is located in marginalized rural areas with limited infrastructure to connect the last mile, access to stable 3G and 4G networks continues to be challenging.
High cost of devices. In Kakuma refugee camp, access to laptops is much lower than smartphones and feature phones, attributed to the high cost of laptops.
Difficulty in charging mobile devices. Energy access in Kakuma refugee camp and Kalobeyei settlement is low, often expensive, and via unreliable informal diesel mini-grids or standalone generators.
How do we bridge this gap?
Through a partnership with GSR Foundation, Techfugees Kenya launched a 6-month “Connected the Unconnected” program to empower the inclusion of at least 5000 displaced persons in Kakuma refugee camp to be digitally connected and have access to offline content resources, streaming, and device charging to strengthen their livelihoods. We have two main initiatives as part of this project:
- Access devices & offline content thro’ providing RLO’s with 50 laptops preloaded with Endless OS
- Solar-powered content hubs through our partnership with Buffalogrid
In August 2023, we launched access to offline content through the Endless OS initiative. We are expecting to tackle the other two initiatives in September 2023.
Access to Offline content through Endless OS
By far Techfugees Kenya expanded our impact through the GSR grant and distributed 50 laptops to 5 refugee-led organisations. This distribution aimed at increasing our Endless OS learning centers across Kakuma hence, the selected organisations were spread across Kakuma 1, Kakuma 2, Kakuma 3, and Kakuma town. Additionally, this time round, we focussed on organisations prioritizing women refugees in their programs. This was a step-by-step process; first, launching a call for applications, second, conducting site visits, selecting the partners; conducting a train-the-trainer session, and finally, awarding the laptops to our partner organisations.
We launched a call for partner selection based on these criteria:
- Refugee-led community organisation in need of laptops.
- Potential target groups: children, youth, schools, women (priority will be given to organisations targeting women refugees).
- Enable free usage of educational content.
- Have a safe place to store the laptops.
- Have access to solar/electricity to charge the laptops.
- Provide regular progress updates to Techfugees Kenya for at least 6 months.
Our community outreach team, conducted site visits to potential organisations that had applied and ensured that we understood their ground day to day programs and validated the needs of their application.
Abri, community outreach coordinator at Crodevu centre
Together with our community outreach coordination team, we selected 5 partner organisations.
Urise, based in Kakuma 1. They provide a ICT skills and knowledge and mentorship programs to fit them in the competitive job markets to gain enough qualifications for differing job opportunities, and to be self-reliant in their everyday living. Their motivation to apply for more laptops is to accommodate a large number of beneficiaries and to train them in ICT skills to meet the demands of job opportunities and education systems in today’s world.
Crodevu, based in Kakuma 2. They run various programs in support of women refugees including giving them digital skills and Hands-on vocational training (tailoring and dressmaking) that enables them to secure Self or direct employment to improve their standard of life leading to self-reliance. Their motivation for applying for the laptops donation is to strengthen our existing computer learning hub with more laptops, which we believe will bridge the digital divide, foster digital citizenship, empower young women and make them digitally literate, create learning interest and improve employment opportunities.
Inver, based in Kakuma 3. They provide access to quality education to both refugee youths and women to foster self-reliance. Their motivation to apply for more laptops is to expand up their digital literacy and blended online learning course so that they can reach out to many beneficiaries since lack of enough gadgets limit their reach to many beneficiaries especially women. They are also planning to partner with an international institute to provide an online certificate for refugee girls, and they see the laptops as an opportunity to make this possible.
Turkana Voices, based in Kakuma town. Fosters access to Digital Access Education for women refugees, youths , local host Communities in Turkana (Kenya) using their strategic Digital Access and Literacy project. They believe that access to technology can provide refugees and the local host communities with the skills and resources needed to advance their education and pursue their dreams. Their motivation to apply is to give their organization the tools it needs to become more efficient, productive, and successful in their Digital Access and Literacy project. They see the laptop donation as an opportunity to improve our Digital Access and Literacy project project operations and reach our long-term goals.
Rescue Wing, based in Kakuma 3. The organisation’s mission is walking shoulder by shoulder with women, young girls and children, protect their rights and support them to reach their dream through education program, livelihood program and psychosocial support. The challenges that women and girls face every day including protection risks and unemployment motivates Rescue wing to apply for this donation. They aim to empower them to better their living standards and give them confidence and independence to reach and fulfill their full potential.
The next step here entailed conducting a train-the-trainer program with the selected organisations. This training was led by our community outreach team, Abri and John and aimed to take the partner organisations through Endless OS content, including the offline applications for learning, productivity, play, and living and the basics of the Linux operating system.
After completing the train-the-trainer sessions, we were confident that our partner organisations were equipped with the needed skills for the project. We partnered with Close the Gap, where we purchased the laptops and pre-loaded the laptops with Endless OS content. We also partnered with Solidarity Initiative for Refugees, which provided us with logistical support regarding Storage space. Last Saturday, our community coordination outreach team was delighted to award the selected 5 organisations the laptops, each receiving 10.
Over the next few weeks, our community outreach team will be working with partner organisations to provide the needed technical support to set up the Endless OS learning centers. We also plan to conduct regular site visits to monitor the project’s progress as we begin to receive success stories from many youth and women refugees. We are also grateful to receive many thankful messages from our partner organisations.
We thank all our partners and Techfugees Kenya Team: Mary, Chapter Lead; Abri and John, the community outreach team, for their support in making this successful!
In collaboration with Endless OS, in September 2022, Techfugees Kenya launched a project to donate laptops/desktops with offline preloaded content to refugee-led organisations.
The laptops come with the following enablements:
- have over 100 free apps and content, curated and selected for all ages and occasions;
- do not depend on the Internet connection to enable a high quality of learning;
- provide an inclusive digital application to remote areas;
- create an environment to support the curation and quality content. Flexibility to customize content and create metrics.
Techfugees have distributed nearly 40 laptops and desktops to our implementation partners, including Advocacy initiative for Youth Development, the Kalobeyei Initiative for Better Life, Rescue Wing, and the Inzone Learning hub. The project has so far impacted nearly 1000 beneficiaries including women, children, and youth, to unlock their potential through accelerating Digital livelihoods. We have received many success stories from this project.