Unleashing Women’s Tech Potential with Open Skies Fellowship: Kinshasa, DRC
By Hawa Adinani
In August 2022, OpenMap Development Tanzania, through the Open Skies Fellowship program (OSF), organized an emerging technology workshop in Kinshasa- Central Africa’s largest and fastest-growing urban system with a population of 23 million people.
We organized a one-week workshop with 22 youth in Kinshasa (all women) who are interested in emerging technologies and want to build projects to address community challenges. Thanks to the tremendous support of our local collaborators for making this workshop a success: Kobo Hub, Youth Action Hub, Ilenge Tech, Digital Solution Center, IRDAC (Initiative Régionale de Documentation et d’Accompagnement).
We were taken aback by how impressed the youths were with the initiative and how they felt they were being recognized as problem solvers in their communities. Participants had brilliant ideas and so much to share during the workshop that it felt like they ran it themselves.
“I learned about this workshop on social media, which caught my attention. The workshop was highly educational, and I learned many new things. In my country, many females are not interested in technology, but I would like to urge girls to attend these types of events because they spark interest and help develop passion for technology in general” — Louange Mbosso, participant.
Just to give you an idea of how OSF workshops are set up, participants are chosen after the application process based on very basic criteria like their interest in emerging technology, ideas for using tech to solve specific community problems, love of sharing and teaching, etc. Education background and previous project implementation are not used as criteria to sort out participants.
The workshop introduced participants to the fundamentals of emerging technologies such as drones, IoT, 3D printing, and so forth — the sessions were interactive, giving participants hands-on experience. We invited facilitators from various local organizations who have different backgrounds, but all within the technology and innovation ecosystem. The goal was to inspire the youth by making them recognize the importance of their participation in solving their own community problems using tech solutions.
During the sessions, the OSF team would observe the youth’s interaction, ability to teach others, sharing, problem-solving skills, and taking leadership roles within the small group, and these, along with the final presentation of their projects, were the criteria we used to select the fellows. Eleven fellows were selected and will receive funding and mentorship over the next six months to develop their ideas into prototypes.
The selected fellows are working on various projects in different sectors such as water, agriculture, energy, transportation, and others. Keep an eye on our blog posts for more information on their projects.
In order to have a consolidated fellowship implementation in Kinshasa, we recently partnered with The Kobo Hub, a Congolese hub focusing on accelerating startups and young companies in the DRC. The relationship will facilitate the fellows’ effective administration while fostering the possibility of collaboration in areas where our interests are similar. If your organization is interested in collaborating with us and sharing the same vision, please get in touch with us (firstname.lastname@example.org).
The Open Skies Team and its implementing partners (OpenMap Development Tanzania, Uhurulabs, and the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team) would like to encourage other organizations and initiatives in the EAC that focus on youth skills to push boundaries in expanding their reach to DRC, as youth have so much potential but are often left behind in many projects. Just as John F Kennedy once said — “We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard,”
When the DRC is mentioned, most people think of state instability, which is unfair and leads to a structural bias in designing projects that impact DRC youth and communities. We need to break down this barrier by giving youth the opportunity to develop projects that address their community challenges in a way they see fit.