We live in a time wherein almost every aspect of life – social, economic, political, religious – has gone or is going digital. When you need a meal delivered to your house, or a taxi to pick up your kids from school, or even someone to date, you may need to go online. You can download an app or simply search the web for virtually every service or product you need.
Unfortunately, the communication authority of Kenya says only 2% of people in the country are computer literate or have access to the internet. This means nearly 98% of the total population is at risk of being excluded from the digital economy. Considering income disparities, and urban rural access gaps, the digital divide will unfortunately continue to increase if efforts to close the information access gap will not be intensified. The rich and the educated, who most likely reside in urban affluent areas, will more likely have good access to digital information resources, which will thus give them an advantage to do well in the modern economy, than the rural poor majority.
In 2013, one man saw the opportunity to mitigate this gap. Eric Kimori founded Complit Kenya, a community based organization, on April 18th of the same year ‘to empower communities in rural Kenya to achieve sustainable development through access to information and communication technology’.
Eric Kimori teaching how to use the computer with the women of rural Kenya
Photo from Erik Kimori
Mr. Kimori, who is also the chief-executive of Complit Kenya, explains that his organization aims to bring the Information Revolution to the villages where information poverty is highly prevalent.
“We primarily take advantage of 21st Century media and tools of communication, especially by enabling equitable access to Information and Communication Technology and other digital resources to empower disadvantaged communities so as to not only grow the local economy, but also participate in the global economy,” he says.
The main objectives of the organization are twofold: one, to promote Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education, e-learning, digital literacy and innovation in rural Kenya; and two, to empower communities in rural Kenya where access to information is very low through enabling access to comprehensive and up-to-date information on key drivers of the local economy such as health, agriculture, entrepreneurship, commerce, technology, media, and governance.
The Complit Kenya team doing a seminar about technology in Rural Kenya
Photo from Eric Kimori
Complit Kenya’s core programs include:
Information Technology (IT) Training
They establish community e-centres (computer labs) in rural areas to provide basic skills in computer literacy through free computer classes and affordable IT training for students interested in pursuing IT-related careers. They collaborate with local public schools and adult learning centers to set up the e-centers which have so far benefited over 3,500 learners. For this program, Complit Kenya has received support from diverse funders who include NextWorldNow and Connection Ubuntu from USA and the Turing Trust and Cumber Family Trust from UK. The computer labs offer a new and innovative way for rural Kenyan students to gain valuable Information and Communication Technology (ICT) skills.
With the support of the UK based charity called Learn Appeal, Complit Kenya offers e-learning and digital educational resources to communities. The program entails extensive e-libraries as resources that are used for independent learning by both students and community members who access e-resources from a wide-range of disciplines. It also serves as a platform for Kenyan syllabi synced courses related to STEM education. The Learn Appeal e-learning project provides connected users within range access to e-learning and other resources where there is no internet access using a variety of devices such as smart phones, tablets and laptops through off-line wifi hotspots. Connected users can collaborate, share content and take part in discussions with other connected users in a secure community.
Educational Support to Orphans
They support orphans and other needy children through mentorship, book donations, and school fees support.
They support quality education through building educational infrastructures, such as libraries, classrooms, computer labs, and science labs.
They organize education hackathons, workshops, seminars, and other community outreach events with the support of Presente! and EduOnTour. Complit Kenya believes that traditional education is not necessarily meeting the needs of the 21st century while technology is forcing a rapid transformation of established systems in our society. Learning environments must therefore be transformed to meet the needs of the 21st century learner.
They empower communities to make informed decisions on development and matters affecting their lives. They provide them with control over fiscal and other resources and encourage greater accountability at the grassroots level. Through information technology, they enable access to information for rural communities to promote public participation, increase transparency, and fight corruption.
With the phenomenal growth of the mobile industry and the exponential emergence of digital tools of the web era, citizens can now become creators of content. Complit Kenya empowers citizen journalists including freelancers and bloggers who have no formal journalism training.
They support technological and scientific innovation aimed at the development of startups, social enterprises, and small scale industries in a bid to create jobs for young people.
Kids and the community members are eager to learn the computer.
Photo from Erik Kimori
Complit Kenya focuses on three United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): SDG 1 - End poverty in all its forms everywhere; SDG 4 - Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all; and SDG 9 - Build resilient infrastructures, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation.
Complit Kenya depends on funding and donations to run its projects. Kimori appeals to donors and people of good will all around the world to support their initiatives in empowering rural communities in Kenya through universal access to information technology.