Energising innovation for development
Allan Adalla @allan_adalla
Growing up as a young girl in rural Kenya, Magdaline Chepkemoi liked mathematics and sciences both in primary and secondary school.
Her dream was to pursue a career in the technology field. Hence, she studied Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science at Strathmore University and later a Master’s Degree in Mobile Telecommunications and Innovation at the same institution.
With time, she realised that many young people, especially girls, had an interest in taking part in the tech field, but lacked guidance, motivation and resources.
The available support concentrated on Nairobi and other big towns thus locking out the youth in rural and peri-urban centres.
It is with this regard that she began an innovation hub called EldoHub in 2016.
It was born out of the need to create a platform where the youth could come together, gain skills, network, and build their careers. In mid-2017, EldoHub came into full operation with an office in Eldoret, Uasin Gishu county.
EldoHub is an education technology hub supporting youth and women to prepare them to tap the opportunities that the digital economy offers and bridge the desired skills gap in Africa’s job market.
The programmes offered include apprenticeship for junior tech professionals, Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (Stem), education for girls and women, business coaching and mentorship, in-school information technology workshops for teachers and students in secondary schools, coding boot camps and workshops for young women, and entrepreneurial training for start-ups and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
“I founded the programme in 2016, but started operations in 2017 with the realisation that there was a lot of potential and underlying talent among the youth in Kenya that was unutilised.
Additionally, the problem of the youth is not only employment, but also the lack of relevant skills needed for job creation demanded in the labour market,” says Chepkemoi.
So far, the programme has impacted the lives of more than 3,000 people including the youth and women aged from 18 to 35, particularly in rural and marginalised counties in the North Rift region.
“Our digital apprenticeship programme encompasses three components: We place selected junior tech professionals into formal sectors, which include start-ups, SMEs, and traditional businesses for a three-month paid programme.
We pair them with mentors who are leading practitioners in specific fields from leading organisations during the period of apprenticeship intending to advise them on how to accomplish their goals, how to troubleshoot and solve work-related problems, and navigate through organisational challenges,” she explains.
Later, they provide the learners with leadership training facilitated by Thunderbird School of Global Management to equip them with desired skills in the job market.
There are also boot camps targeting teens between the ages of six and 19 who desire to learn and develop programmes around the web, mobile app, and graphic design during school holidays.
“The programme inspires creativity and innovation and impart digital literacy currently overlooked by the conventional school curriculum.
“The components of this programme entail coding of mobile apps and games (problem-solving skills), electronics and robotics, computer science, web programming and design, and child online protection,” she says.
In pandemic’s wake
Chepkemoi has seven years of experience serving in different technical capacities as a software engineer, network management system engineer, data scientist and educator at different universities.
She also loves building innovation and business ecosystems using Information and Communication Technology for Development.
In 2018, she was chosen a Mandela Washington Fellow and won a Business Innovation Challenge for youth entrepreneurs by the United States African Development Foundation (USADF). She was selected for the prestigious US Tech Women programme 2019 and was recognised by Anita Borg Pass It On Award 2019 and spoke at the Grace Hopper Celebration in Orlando, Florida, USA.
Finally, she is a 2020 e-founder Fellow Programme organised by Alibaba and United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).
The Covid-19 pandemic has created both challenges and opportunities in equal measures for EldoHub, and Chepkemoi intimates that getting the right tech experts was quite a challenge at first, as many experts migrated to Nairobi to look for greener pastures.
“We had to provide most of our programmes such as training, coaching and mentorship remotely to our clients via video links.
In addition, the management allowed staff members to work in shifts, with some working from home while others from the office.
This was in response to the measures outlined by the Health ministry to curb the spread of the virus,” she says.
To assess whether the programme is making an impact on the community, internal and external consultants are used to evaluate the programmes.
A standardised criteria, which comprises relevance, effectiveness, efficiency, impact, and sustainability, is used.
“So far, the evaluation reports have indicated that our programmes have impacted the society positively.
For instance, a recent report on the digitisation of women-led programmes showed that out of the 35 participants, 16 are already leveraging technology and are conducting their businesses online through e-commerce.
As a result, it has promoted growth and productivity in their enterprises. The report also showed that such businesses have built resilience during the Covid-19 pandemic,” Chepkemoi says.
She adds that EldoHub has co-curated a platform called Sasa Kazi, a job matching and educational platform that targets to prepare the youth to benefit from digital opportunities.