How Kenyan Universities are Catering for 21st Century Needs

Imagine, dealing with a task for school or work that made you anxious or stressed. Usually two things would make someone feel that way; 1, being so anxious that we believe the outcome will be negative, like failing that test or having a bad business presentation. Or 2, not having the capacity or experience to perform the task. How would you feel if you were asked to code a website with no previous experience or training and your performance on this complex task had repercussions on your job or grade at school? Sounds like something no one would never ask of you, right?

However, for thousands of University students in Kenya and other African countries this is part of normal life. Students are asked to submit essays on word or make a presentation in Power Point, without ever being trained on how to use these tools. How would you research your subject without knowing how to browse the internet? How are you to be expected to have these skills when your access to computers before university has been limited or almost non-existent?

In June this year, I visited a few partner universities that work with Computer Aid in Kenya. From carrying out a small sample research and talking to students, I found that this situation is more common than expected. Even though students are very likely to have used a computer before university, in cybercafés or schools, the majority, 7 out of 10, have never received any formal IT training.  Their real skills in terms of using technology for education are limited. Further to lack of training, access is also a challenge faced by students. Only 3 out of 10 will have access to a computer at home.

Alejandro, Project Co-ordinator speaking with students at Kisii University

At university students will receive computer training and will have some access to computers. However the students per PC ratio is often very high, limiting the student’s access to computers and preventing them from taking on more advance tasks like coding or designing. Some of the students will only gain access to computers once a week or less and it can even take a year to receive the needed training to develop confidently in their education.

This is a stark contrast to UK universities. Over there, libraries loan laptops to students, help students purchase their own, and in some cases even provide new students with a free computer tablet. Some universities go one step further making apps that display real-time computer availability, helping to distribute students across IT labs at peak times. These provisions, coupled with high ownership rates independent of the university, means that although universities do not have 1:1 ratios, access to a PC is almost always guaranteed.

Without access to technology the new generation of Kenyans will have a difficult time competing in an extremely globalised and connected world. Universities have been the first to tackle this problem and they are now moving fast to address it. Our partner universities in Kenya, Kisii University, Masaai Mara University and The Catholic University of Eastern Africa are collaborating with Computer Aid to reduce student to PC ratios. New programs are going to be rolled out to support access to personal computers, and improve training capabilities and access to international certificates. The partnership, now in its 4th year, is proving to be highly successful. At Kisii University the student for PC ratio decreased from 100 to 10.  Across the universities, we are seeing that students and administrators are excited to receive PCs, and students committed to applying IT to their education.

‘Who had ICT training before university?’

Solutions are not only in the top down approach from the University management and ourselves. Students are also tackling the problem on their own accord. The few privileged students who own a laptop often train their peers in their spare, providing the first experience of training for young students.

Now try to imagine again that stressful moment of preparing for an exam or a presentation, and think for a second how would you manage it if you couldn’t access your computer?

Written by Alejandro Espinosa Llano, Project Co-ordinator at Computer Aid.

 Alejandro is currently based in Nairobi, Kenya, where he supports our projects and partners, ensuring that they receive the necessary tools to make full advantage of ICTs.

Solar Learning Labs reached South Africa – Dell partnership


Two new Dell Solar Powered Learning Labs (ZubaBoxes) have met their homes in South Africa, where they’ll be supporting students education. This marks Computer Aid’s 14th and 15th ZubaBoxes, and 3rd and 4th in partnership with Dell.

The labs which are converted shipping containers create unique learning spaces for local partners, Change the World South Africa, who work to bridge the skills gap in the ICT job market in South Africa. They teach students skills ranging from PC Basics to intermediate coding, and IT technician workshops. Their intensive, hands-on training programs empower and develop young people to be competent in ICT and enable them to use their skills to find purposeful employment and enhance the quality of their lives.

“We all need ICT no matter the industry or sector you plough your trades in. Being African and seeing the worrying economic state our of continent, I realise that we need change.

One of the key changes we need to effect as Africans is to position Africa in the fore front of ICT technology development and not to only be consumers of these technologies. We need a generation that is ICT educated to enable them to adapt to an evolving technological and industrial world, it is for these reasons that I feel ICT and ICT education is very important.” Head of Training – Change the World -Mpho Segola

What data protection means for Computer Aid and our supporters.

New data protection regulations are currently being brought into effect by the European Commission, and with cybercrime being ever high on the list of threats to the UK; data protection is, as always, of great importance to Computer Aid and our donors.

There are some standout changes to the Data Protection Regulation that are imperative to us, which are summarised below:

Tougher sanctions

Fines for noncompliance can be as high as €100m or 5 percent of global revenue (whichever is higher). This is in contrast to the current maximum £500,000 fine in the UK. This illustrates just how seriously data breaches are to be taken, and the great deal of responsibility for companies that comes with data storage.

Erasure rights

Users can demand that their data be completely erased at any time. This includes all data if on multiple systems, covering for any syncing procedures that may be in place, and local copies. Companies must also therefore ensure that machines at the end of their life, or when being moved out the company, are fully data wiped, so when a user requests that their data be erased, it is fully erased and is not still remaining on equipment that has since left the company.

Furthermore, it is data holder’s responsibility to inform users of their rights, increasing the likelihood that users will request that their data be destroyed.

Data processors, as well as owners will be responsible for protection.

All parties that come into contact with data will be responsible for data protection, regardless of whether they are the owner of that content or not. This means third party companies do not avoid responsibility, and companies who use third parties have a responsibility to check that they are compliant.

Tighter rules covering parties outside of the EU

Regardless of whether Britain leaves the EU, or what relationship there will be with the EU post exit, there is no way of avoiding these tightened regulations. Rather than be controlled geographically, the rules surround data on EU citizens. This means no matter the location of the company, third parties, or physical servers and hard drives, if the data is on an EU citizen, then it must comply.

We have always seen data protection to be of the upmost importance to ourselves, our donors, and of course the individuals whose data we may be handling. Thus we have always provided a complete data erasure service through Blancco as well as all the WEEE regulated documentations. Our new partnership with Tier 1 only strengthens our data security capabilities, and will further ensure compliance with the new data protection regulation. For example we will now be able to provide on-site asset scanning and secure transportation of hardware, meaning that all vehicles used to transport equipment will be geo-tracked from the donor site to the Tier 1 refurbishment facility. Additionally, we will be able to provide asset tracking, delivering a detailed report containing all information regarding each asset donated, i.e. serial number, hard drive etc. and inform donors within a month of what will be reused or recycled from the equipment that has been donated.

Tier 1 also has a robust and safe-data wiping process, and holds strong, socially responsible values that closely match those of Computer Aid. Working together we will be able recycle and refurbish machines in a more secure manner, fully compliant with the data protection regulations. This will provide people with greater confidence of data protection, encouraging more people to donate their machines for end of life service, which will enable us to bring IT to even more people and communities that require them.