Bridging the Digital Divide
Situation in Kilifi
Communications technology is vital to any economy, developing ones included. Computers and internet access mean reduced operating costs for business and non- profits. More contact with the outside world also increases opportunities for investment in a community. In Kilifi, most schools have no electronic equipment of any kind and the vast majority of residents have limited to no access to a computer. Without access to computers, Kilifi residents don’t develop the skills necessary to engage and compete in an increasingly digital world and, ultimately, can’t compete for good jobs. Thus, they are only further disadvantaged and face greater obstacles to pull themselves out of poverty.
Digital Links International, Rotary Club of Kenya, Computers for Schools Kenya (CFSK)
What We’re Doing
We seek to promote knowledge of computers and bolster useful job skills among students and community members. In early 2008, we partnered with the UK-based Digital Links International to supply equipment and then coordinated with their local affiliate, Computers for Schools Kenya, to install and maintain four computer labs within 30 kilometers of Kilifi town. Fifteen computers (refurbished Pentium IIIs with Windows/Office) were purchased for each site and customized software for Kenya’s educational system was installed on each computer.
Between April and June 2008, we installed centers at 3 schools—Bahari Girls Integrated Secondary School, Kilifi Township Secondary School, and Kibarani School for the Deaf, as well as the Kilifi Community Library. Each school, under the guidance of CFSK, was responsible for providing a renovated physical space conducive to a computer lab, including electrical improvements, locks and window bars, and installation of desks and a whiteboard.
Nine teachers, school administrators, and library administrators were trained by CFSK staff on the basics of computer usage and effective training techniques, and each was awarded a professional certificate. Teachers were also given a basic understanding of computer administration. Since installation, CFSK are on contract for the maintenance of the computers if any problems arise that teachers cannot immediately address. All computers are being used in school study; in the case of the Bahari Girls School, a new full-time computer teacher was hired for more extensive instruction. It is estimated that 2,800 students are benefiting from the computers and another 1,200 community members at the public library.
More than Just Computers
Kilifi Kids is exploring opportunities to establish a program we have termed “Virtual Exchange,” which matches students in the United States with those in Kilifi for cultural exchange over the Internet. Our aim is to expand the outlook of students in Kilifi and teach students in the U.S. about the challenges and opportunities of economic development in Kenya. Currently, we are working on a pilot study between Campbell High School in Smyrna, Georgia and Kilifi Township Secondary, Kilifi. A temporary Internet connection through a local phone company has been installed at the public library in Kilifi. Even though access is limited to certain computers, Kilifi users can now browse the Internet and students from participating schools can engage one another. More to come.