How Dorcas Owino is playing her role in curing the digital divide in Kisumu

Dorcas Owino, Diversity Lead at LakeHub, is one of the most active techies in Western Kenya.

Dorcas Owino, Diversity Lead at LakeHub, is one of the most active techies in Western Kenya.

 

“Women in time to come will do much. ” Mary Ward ( 1585-1645)

During  my early years of high school, when adolescent-hood was at its peak, this was a phrase that was repeatedly posted all over the school notice boards during the week preceding 23rd January. It was an annual ritual, one that would later(after high school) make sense to me. A ritual  that subconsciously inspired me to be at the heart of promoting girls education. Before I turn this post to be about Mary Ward and my numerous high school experiences, let’s consider the technovation challenge.

This post will narrate the experience of the lead mentor, who debuted the technovation challenge program in Kisumu,Kenya.- a town that that is located 400 km from the capital city of Nairobi.

With the wave of technology and increased mobile use in Kenya, Kisumu has not been left behind. In 2013, the first  technology community hub, LakeHub was founded. From this community of young volunteers , drawn from universities, colleges and professionals  around  western Kenya, technovation Kisumu chapter was born.

“He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing” – Muhammad Ali(1942-2016)

Dorcas Adhiambo, the technovation lead in Kisumu pioneered the program  in 2016, as  a first time ever venture in this side of the country. Armed with her computer programming and  application development skills ; iced with the  experienced  journey of running a startup, SokoNect, as a co-founder , she set off to Kisumu, her hometown.

There is a great divide in girls' access to, participation and leadership within the technology industry and Dorcas is working to cure that.

There is a great divide in girls’ access to, participation and leadership within the technology industry and Dorcas is always working hard to cure that.

As a volunteer with LakeHub, Dorcas has taken up several leadership roles including being the diversity lead in the community and also the Western Kenyan, WomenTechmakers lead. Through these roles she has been able to successfully organize two international women’s day conferences in 2015 and 2016 and DevFests in Kisumu, This was done with the support of Technovation seemed like a small challenge having being able to pull off these other roles well. But that wasn’t the case.

“I tried to get partners to support the program but no one was keen on coming to Kisumu. Nairobi seemed like an easier option. I had previously(2015) been a coach in a school in Nairobi. But the question I asked myself is, how are we going to reach more girls if we don’t take up the risk of mentoring people in other parts of Kenya?Kisumu was my next stop”

“She became unstoppable not because she did not have failures or doubts,but because she continue on despite them all ” – Beau Taplin

With no monetary support, Dorcas reached out to LakeHub community members and asked them to volunteer to coach a few girls from schools within the town. This marked the beginning of the 10 week programme that would end in imparting skills, knowledge and confidence to the young  girls.

“We couldn’t go too far interior because that would have a cost implication. LakeHub community members mostly reside within Kisumu,thus making it easier for them to make trips to the school”

We were able to get the administration of LIons HIgh School, Kisumu Girls High School and Arya Primary school to have their students participate in the technovation challenge.

“ I am forever grateful to the headteachers of these three schools”  Dorcas quips with a smile.

I prod further to know what other challenges this journey might have thrown her way.

“We were often short of computers and steady supply of internet. The progress was often very minimal  and i would get frustrated but we kept going. We had to push on”

Despite the challenges faced while leading the technovation team Dorcas was keen to note that it  was a very inspiring experience for her. One that  allowed her to see mobile application developement through fresh eyes, the eyes of a beginner. I was also keen on finding out what it meant for her to teach young girls to appreciate technology and gain some skills while at it.

it put a smile on my face to watch the growth of some girls going from not being able to turn on a laptop to comfortably navigating through it. And you know what? The girls have become so confident that they have started computer clubs in their schools and are preparing for next year’s challenge. That makes me very happy.”

This is the ripple effect of empowerment.

I ask her to summarize the entire technovation challenge experience.

“Was it easy?Nope…Worth it? Absolutely.”

Her achievements :

  • Dorcas a.k.a. Techchic alongside Coach Walter Loso  was also the coach of  Team Techculture from Lions High School. Their team made it to the semi-finals.
  • Under her stewardship, the Kisumu technovation chapter had 3 teams from Arya primary school., 3 from Kisumu Girls and 3 from Lions High School which participated in the international technovation challenge. Two teams made it to the semi-finals.

Important Extras:

  • She is good at rails, html5, jquery and .net computer programming languages.

NB: In the following weeks, we will post about the journey of the other volunteers from LakeHub.

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