How I overcome challenges I face as an EdTech entreprenuer in Kampala-Uganda.
As I grind away every day to introduce computer programming to kids I encounter a myriad of issues that stand in the way of progress. I’m not complaining, I’m a strong believer in obstacles as opportunities to discover your strength and learn from. It would be boring if it was smooth sailing.
One of the barriers is the cost of internet data. It is still very expensive to use the internet in Uganda. I think we have the highest internet tariffs in the East African region. That comes with a host of challenges for a developer because we depend entirely on the internet to research and find answers to difficult technical issues.
As entrepreneur if I’m going to charge a fee for a coding club in a school I must cater for that and try to strike a balance between affordability and making it worthwhile for the business. The business can’t run without funding through club subscriptions.
Hardware is still expensive as well, therefore I must open the clubs in schools that already have functioning computer labs, and these are a few urban schools or international schools where the kids pay enough tuition to afford that luxury.
My desire through Therailsshop is to take this initiative to the kids who might not be able to pay a fee and have them have an opportunity to expose themselves to these crucial skills. I hope to achieve this through partnerships with corporate bodies and government at some point soon. This cannot wait too long.
Mentorship programs are also very important for aspiring software engineers. Access to tech hubs though starting to grow in the city, are still not enough to cater for everyone with the desire to benefit from them. If you are not in Kampala the capital city, you pretty much don’t have access to these spaces. As developers, exchanging ideas and meeting like-minded people is extremely crucial for your growth as a professional. Through meet-ups strong friendships grow and thrive. People start to work on ideas together and businesses spring up from such endeavours.
I came across a podcast featuring a lady I admire called Emily Karungi, who studied software engineering at University but was still not confident enough in her skills as a developer. She was able to build confidence and grow as a developer after meeting like-minded people in tech hubs like the outbox. She now is now a GDG kampala lead, a code mentor at thinkful, a coach at Django girls kampala, former software engineer at thoughtworks and a contributor of Women passion which encourages girls to be players in the tech space. What a success for someone who doubted her abilities.
Through open source technologies like FCC, I’m able to use their platforms without paying a fee and have access to source code to tweak it to suit my Ugandan setting. The power of open source licenses is amazing and lets us have a bigger impact for the greater good. Through initiatives like FCC, I can go as far as translating the guides in the local languages so that the kids who might not be proficient in the English language can still benefit. If you can’t understand the question you can’t answer it, therefore language as a barrier must be removed.
I’m taking the lead to make sure developers can grow and learn from each pther and benefit through collaborations. I will achieve this through FCC meet ups. Through this initiative, we encourage members to get off the tutorial rollercoaster and work on real-life projects together. The internet is awash with open source tools that we can use to collaborate like Gitter, Slack Github etc. By working on projects, confidence is built and skills are enhanced. The fear to try new things and learning also goes away.
In a group, you realise that you are not alone when you hit walls trying to learn. Through this initiative we shall not fail to grow a thriving community of campers that will raise the bar of our local talent as a country. We shall grow quality knowledge workers that can compete on the world scene. Please join our facebook group and be part of a force for change.