OMDTZ Launches Fellowship Program Focusing on Emerging Technology

Digna Mushi and Bornlove Ntikha at the African Drone Forum, 2020: Sala Lewis

OpenMap Development Tanzania (OMDTZ) has been awarded a two-year grant by Fondation Botnar to support youth by giving them the power and responsibility to gain technical and social skills to leverage the full potential of frontier technologies. The program — Open Skies Fellows: African Tech for African Data — is implemented through a strong partnership with the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT) and Uhurulabs. The partners will work together to bridge this skills gap between youth and the promise of new technologies, with the conviction that all they need are resources, time to develop, and mentorship.

African youth are normally left behind in technological skills and opportunities, leading to an overreliance on external experts to solve their community challenges. This fellowship is specifically designed to break this vicious circle, change mindsets, and expose youth to opportunities that will lead to skills development and problem-solving by developing technical skills. This will not only benefit the fellows in the program but will act as living evidence of how youth technical skills support can pave the way to technological evolution and how the learning can be used to design other similar projects.

The fellowship is cultivating the fact that the young people of Africa are dynamic, forward-looking and best positioned to find innovative solutions to local challenges. What they crave is guidance and opportunity. This initiative provides an opportunity for fellows to learn, gain confidence, skills, and expertise by doing projects under mentors’ guidance.

The program is broadly focusing on three main goals:

  • Develop the next generation of African experts on frontier technologies, emphasizing women as participants and leaders
  • Support innovative and practical projects in local communities for social good using technology
  • Cultivate an existing hub of open data, frontier technology and innovation at OMDTZ and throughout the region

At its core, Open Skies Fellows is about human development. We believe that by giving young people a chance to deepen their technical skills, it enlarges their freedoms, opportunities, and general well-being. It also has a ripple effect in society, as knowledge is transferred laterally to their peers, and back to communities.

Front and center in all of this will be unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), which OMDTZ uses to advance its work mapping to support the development of communities. Open Skies is using drones as an anchor technology that connects with a broad array of other technologies and technical skills. In addition to learning how to design, build, and fly drones, many fellows will be engaged with frontier technologies such as artificial intelligence, 3D printing and reconstruction, big data, robotics, the Internet of Things, among others.

Our goal at the end of 2022 is to create a cohort of African youth with genuinely deep technological expertise, intellectual curiosity, pride of accomplishment, and economically valuable skills. Specifically:

  • 40 Open Skies Fellows equipped with necessary skills by attending 5-month fellowships
  • Female fellows are encouraged and prioritized i.e using a 70/30 ratio to accommodate for the existing imbalance in the tech sector
  • African youth from secondary cities prioritized, not only from universities but directly from communities themselves

The geographical focus of the fellowship program will be in Tanzania, however, we will include youth in both the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Rwanda as well. The context of each country varies and comes with its own unique problems, but all are experiencing similar challenges.

For more information about the fellowship, please contact; digna.mushi@openskiesfellows.org

Using Open Data, Open Source, and maps to solve different socio-economic challenges.

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