This CNN Hero upcycles old computers to open new worlds for young Kenyans.
When I was first confronted with what the government calls “the crisis,” I was in a moment of self-sabotage. It took years for me to believe that the problem was not, as I had been told, a software problem, but a society problem. I had been a volunteer leader in the Democratic Movement for National Reform (DMNR). I did not know about the Kenyan problem until I arrived on the island of Nyasaland in September 2012 to volunteer with the Kenyan government fighting on the front line in the battle with “malaria.”
When I was confronted with the truth, I had to face it. The problem was not a technical fault, which could be fixed by buying a new computer. No, the problem was a society problem. It was a problem of power. The Kenyan government was clearly incapable of taking on its own, its own problems. It wanted to control the way information was transmitted. It wanted to control the way information was stored. It wanted to control the people whose jobs it wanted to protect. It wanted to control the internet.
In April 2013, I left the front line behind and was able to focus on the technical problems, and work with a Kenyan government official who was fighting with me on the problem of “digital divide” in Kenya. He became my mentor at the World Wide Web Foundation’s Kenya office and helped me to organize the digital divide campaign in Kenya.
I realized that the Kenyan government had many more issues than malaria. It had a dysfunctional and corrupt National Assembly. It had a dysfunctional and corrupt government.
“Digital divide” is the term we use in Kenya to describe the gap in education, employment, health and income that is created by the digital divide between the rural vs. urban sectors. It is not just the gap in between, but the gap within the sectors.
The digital divide is a systemic problem. The same problem exists not just in Kenya, but throughout Africa. It is a problem of how you organize your economy. This organization must be flexible, responsive, and it must be dynamic. The digital divide is a crisis