Libraries and Digital Inclusion in Kenya

A Good Things Foundation Pilot

In July 2017, Michael and I visited Kenya to kickstart Good Things Foundation’s Digital Life: Kenya Pilot with the Kenya National Library Service (knls) The purpose of the trip was to meet knls, visit libraries, train 20 librarians as Digital Champions, and experience Kenya for ourselves.

The aim of the Digital Life: Kenya is to test how effective Good Things Foundation’s digital inclusion programme and resources are in supporting people to improve their lives through digital in Kenya.

Our trip allowed us to test out the assumptions we had about life in Kenya and the current and potential role of libraries in delivering digital activity in communities.

Today we are launching our report: Libraries and Digital Inclusion in Kenya. The report gives a flavour of our week and presents some of the findings and issues we want to delve deeper into over the course of the pilot.

Our Week in Kenya

Whilst in Kenya, we visited six libraries. Kangema, Murang’a, Kinyambu, Kithasyu, Gilgil and Naivasha libraries. In between our visits, we spent two days training 20 librarians as Digital Champions and on Learn My Way.

Key Takeaways From The Training

  • Most people we met think everyone in the UK uses the internet. They were shocked that 4.8 million adults in the UK have never been online
  • Some librarians had never used a laptop before
  • Online shopping isn’t common in Kenya, only in Nairobi
  • Accessibility was not a familiar term
  • There was much interest in free online learning platforms and tools
  • Some librarians had travelled for two days to get to the training in Nairobi
  • knls are going to track Learn My Way usage amongst the libraries

Does our model have relevance in Kenya?

We were pleased with how the Digital Champion training went. We think that there is a need amongst librarians to be made more aware of learning tools available and to learn from community learning that happens in libraries elsewhere. We also think that Learn My Way has potential because it’s free, it offers a curriculum and learner management.

We will test the above hypotheses during the pilot. Our initial thoughts are:

  • Libraries aren’t delivering structured basic digital skills at the moment. Many librarians are doing online activities for customers, rather than supporting their skill development
  • There is potential for customers to earn money online, getting past the challenges of rurality and lack of transport
  • Libraries currently aim their support towards younger people. There is an opportunity for them to be inspired to think about the needs and benefits of digital to all ages
  • Cyber cafes charge 10KES (about 7 pence) for the first minute and then 1KES (1p) per minute after that, with no support. Libraries charge 20KES (14p) per day but do offer support. With promotion, this offer has the potential to attract more library customers
  • We need to understand where digital fits in with day-to-day challenges like water and food shortage, and health issues like alcoholism. There is a need to incentivise people into libraries by understanding these challenges further

What We’re Working On Now

Outcomes measurement: We’re currently trying to understand the outcomes of most importance to library customers, and how they relate to the Sustainable Development Goals, in collaboration with librarians, and co-designing ways for them to track learner progression.

Webinar: We’ll be talking to the 10 pilot libraries about how they are getting on and sharing extra resources with them during a webinar in September.

Next visit: We plan to return to Kenya later in 2017, to visit more libraries and meet library customers who are learning basic digital skills.

Regular comms: All 62 libraries will receive a newsletter in October, to keep them up to date with news and learnings from the pilot.

If you’d like to follow the pilot, here are a few ways you can find out more: