Category

ICTs

Vacancy: Program Officer – West Africa

By | DigitalJobs, ICTs, L.I.F.E.

Paradigm Initiative (PIN) is a non-profit social enterprise that builds ICT-enabled support systems for young people, in order to improve their livelihoods. Two of PIN’s programs focus on digital inclusion while the third focuses on digital rights advocacy. Paradigm Initiative’s digital rights advocacy program is focused on the development of public policy for internet freedom in key regions of Africa. Our policy advocacy efforts include media campaigns, coalition building, capacity building, research and report-writing.

Job Summary:

To provide essential support to Programs, working with the Senior Program Manager and other team members to achieve projects’ success. To manage the Digital Rights and Digital Inclusion programs and events, in West Africa, relevant to accomplishing the organization’s strategic goals and objectives, as well as to establish networks with other institutions.

Reporting To:

Senior Program Manager

Roles and responsibilities:

  1. Policy and Administration
  • Support with the identification and interpretation of program strategies and policies across the region
  • Plan and design programs and events; proactively monitor its progress, resolve issues and initiate appropriate corrective action
  • Ensure effective quality assurance and the overall integrity of the program – focus inwardly on the internal consistency of the program and outwardly on its coherence with infrastructure planning, interface with other programs and corporate technical and specialist standards
  • Assist in administering training for other support staff and team members
  • Monitor and document policy development around digital inclusion and digital rights  in your region
  • Log complaints and problems associated with running the programs effectively
  • Support the administrative team when the need arises
  • Attend corporate functions in order to build the organization’s network
  • Ensure timely completion of programs within set deadlines

2. Resource Control and Financial Management

  • Effectively manage tools and resources for program implementation
  • Keep records of all financial transactions associated with program processes and completion
  • Ensure proper management of all budgetary allocations for program management
  • Send accurate monthly financial records to the Finance & Assets unit while staying within the limits of approved budgets.
  • Collaboratively work with the team to ensure effective usage of resources

3. Program Planning and Implementation

  • Impact the organization’s output by developing and interpreting initiatives and new trends of program development
  • Render advisory services to the Program Manager or when required on matters of program planning, implementation, development and sustainability
  • Provide essential support services to the team on a regular basis
  • Provide regular updates of all planning processes, practices and program methodology
  • Collect and collate all reports of completed programs and events

4. Research and Fundraising

  • Research and develop materials and reports that outline the successful completion of programs
  • Identify, and work with the Senior Program Manager  to contact, potential grantees for funding and identify other income streams for the program
  • Work with the Senior Program Manager and the rest of the team in writing grant applications
  • Develop a budget and operating plan for each program
  • Contribute to the analysis and communication of key digital policy developments in your region by developing at least one (1) policy brief per quarter
  • Contribute to reports and research on Digital Policy developments

5. Community Relations

  • Identify, develop and promote partnerships with other external organizations
  • Manage communications with all stakeholders
  • Provide the communities with relevant information about PIN’s programs and events

6. Advocacy and Communications

  • Represent PIN at public events and/or in mass media
  • Strengthen PIN’s networking with funders, foundations and other relevant organizations to develop grant-making and programmatic partnerships and collaborations
  • Identify communications opportunities and strategies to raise awareness about PIN
  • Create connections between issues relevant to digital rights and inclusion and opportunities for PIN to leverage its position in advocacy circles
  • Plan and conduct outreach activities to enhance and sustain existing and future networks with potential grantees and funders

Education and Experience:

  • A qualified lawyer and a member of the Bar Association of their country
  • A background in Policy or equivalent experience
  • Work experience of 3-5 years in supporting programs with multiple stakeholders
  • Flair for and experience in budgeting, writing and reporting
  • Project management and proposal development experience strongly preferred.
  • Experience in program design and training

Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities:

  • Must be a strong communicator; have excellent written, presentation and oral communications in both English and French
  • Vast knowledge and understanding of program planning, analysis, implementation and development
  • Ability to professionally engage and work with key stakeholders in various settings
  • Demonstrated ability to draft proposals, reports and results of research or other organizational documents with minimal supervision
  • Strong understanding of digital rights advocacy issues
  • Time management and administrative skills
  • Proven ability to set priorities, work independently and take initiative, manage multiple projects simultaneously and meet deadlines
  • Good knowledge of research methods and practices 
  • Competence in the usage of computer systems, software, data and IT applications.
  • Good interpersonal skills

For the purpose of gender balance, a female candidate will be preferred. 

This position is based in Senegal.

How to apply

Send a one-page statement of interest, in English, with your recent CV attached to hr@paradigmhq.org.

The application will be open till October 30, 2020, but it will be filled as soon as we find the right fit. If you think you are the right fit, do not delay in sending in your application.

Appel à co-auteurs

By | Advocacy, Digital Rights, DigitalJobs, ICT Policy, ICTs, Internet Freedom, L.I.F.E.

Un rapport sur les droits numériques et l’inclusion en Afrique

Contexte

Paradigm Initiative (PIN) est une entreprise sociale qui construit un système de soutien basé sur les TIC et milite pour les droits numériques afin d’améliorer les moyens de subsistance des jeunes mal desservis. À travers ses équipes, partenaires et réseaux à travers le continent africain, PIN surveille l’état des droits numériques et de l’inclusion en Afrique et intervient avec des programmes et des actions qui répondent le mieux aux défis. L’écosystème numérique en Afrique est marqué par des violations des droits numériques que PIN a bien identifiées dans ses rapports sur les droits numériques en Afrique et a fait l’objet de délibérations mondiales sur des plateformes régionales et internationales telles que DRIF, le Forum sur la gouvernance de l’internet et RightsCon.

Grâce à la communauté des droits numériques et de l’inclusion, les initiatives de plaidoyer changent le paysage numérique en garantissant que les meilleures pratiques sont adoptées dans les politiques et la législation en Afrique. Des progrès significatifs sont en cours dans certains pays africains pour combler le fossé numérique et méritent d’être reconnus. Dans ce contexte, il est pertinent que le PIN documente les droits numériques et les violations d’inclusion, souligne les jalons et formule des recommandations pour améliorer le paysage numérique en Afrique.

Paradigm Initiative sollicite les services de chercheurs sur les droits numériques et l’inclusion en Afrique pour être co-auteurs d’un rapport continental annuel sur les droits numériques et l’inclusion. Chaque chercheur retenu fera rapport sur un pays spécifique. Paradigm Initiative versera une allocation de 800 USD au chercheur pour un travail achevé et soumis de manière satisfaisante.

Justification et portée du rapport

PIN cherche à compiler le rapport annuel 2020 qui donne une analyse approfondie de l’état des droits numériques et de l’inclusion en Afrique en examinant les violations, les lacunes, en enquêtant sur l’utilisation et l’application des politiques et de la législation, ainsi qu’en formulant des recommandations clés pour faire progresser les droits numériques et l’inclusion en Afrique. Le rapport dégagera également des thèmes clés à débattre lors du prochain DRIF21 et mettra en évidence les domaines d’intervention exceptionnels.

Méthodologie

Le rapport comprendra des rapports spécifiques aux pays bien documentés qui sont référencés et soumis par les auteurs des membres de son équipe et de la communauté des droits numériques et de l’inclusion. L’étude des pays adoptera une approche multiforme, combinant des méthodes empiriques et de recherche documentaire pour évaluer à la fois les aspects quantitatifs et qualitatifs des droits numériques et de l’inclusion en Afrique.

Contenu attendu

Les rapports nationaux doivent inclure un contexte et un historique; identifier et discuter des domaines d’évaluation thématiques, se référer à tout cadre juridique, politique et institutionnel du pays et faire des recommandations. Les rapports nationaux peuvent inclure, sans s’y limiter, l’un des domaines d’évaluation thématique suivants;

  • Impact de la réglementation COVID-19 sur les droits numériques et l’inclusion.
  • Jouissance de la liberté d’expression en ligne en 2020
  • Protection des données, confidentialité, identifiants numériques et surveillance
  • Coupures d’Internet
  • Lois sur le discours haineux, la désinformation et la diffamation criminelle
  • L’exclusion numérique en Afrique et son impact sur les droits humains
  • Infrastructure numérique et hiérarchisation des TIC.

Expertise et qualification requises

  • Bonne connaissance du pays sur lequel portera le rapport ;
  • Un diplôme pertinent.
  • Expertise, connaissances et expérience des droits numériques et de l’inclusion.
  • Ligne directrice pour les articles
  • Longueur acceptable du rapport de pays : 1500 mots
  • Anglais ou français.
  • Les auteurs doivent s’assurer que tous les statistiques, faits et données sont correctement référencés.
  • Un seul rapport de pays par chercheur sera accepté.

Les candidats intéressés, veuillez soumettre une réponse accompagnée d’une copie de votre CV et d’un échantillon de travail écrit d’ici le 19 septembre 2020 ici. Les délais complets seront communiqués aux candidats retenus. Les réponses seront communiquées le 1er octobre 2020.

Call for Co-Authors

By | Advocacy, Digital Rights, DigitalJobs, ICT Policy, ICTs, Internet Freedom, L.I.F.E.

A Report on Digital Rights and Inclusion in Africa

Background

Paradigm Initiative (PIN) is a social enterprise that builds an ICT-enabled support system and advocates for digital rights in order to improve livelihoods for under-served youth. Through its teams, partners and networks across the African continent, PIN monitors the state of digital rights and inclusion in Africa and intervenes with programs and actions that best respond to the challenges.  The digital ecosystem in Africa is marked by digital rights violations which PIN has aptly captured in its Digital Rights in Africa reports as well as been subject for global deliberations at regional and international platforms such as DRIF, Internet Governance Forum, and RightsCon.

Through the digital rights and inclusion community, advocacy initiatives are changing the digital landscape ensuring best practices are adopted into policy and legislation in Africa. The meaningful strides being taken in some African countries to bridge the digital divide are worth acknowledging.  With this background, it is pertinent that PIN documents digital rights and inclusion violations, highlights milestones and makes recommendations for improving the digital landscape in Africa.

Paradigm Initiative seeks the services of researchers on digital rights and inclusion from within Africa to be co-authors of an annual continental report on digital rights and inclusion. Each successful researcher will report on a specific country. Paradigm Initiative will pay a stipend of USD $800 to the researcher for work satisfactorily completed and submitted.

Rationale and Scope of the report

PIN seeks to compile the 2020 annual report that gives an in-depth analysis of the state of digital rights and inclusion in Africa by examining violations, gaps, investigating the use and application of policy and legislation as well as draw key recommendations for advancing digital rights and inclusion in Africa. The report will also draw key themes for deliberation at the upcoming DRIF21 and highlight outstanding areas for intervention.

Methodology

The report will comprise of well-researched country specific reports which are referenced and submitted by authors from its team members and digital rights and inclusion community. The study of the countries will take a multifaceted approach, combining empirical and desk-research methods to assess both quantitative and qualitative aspects of digital rights and inclusion in Africa.

Expected Content

Country Reports must include a context and background; identify and discuss the thematic assessment areas, refer to any in-country legal, policy and institutional framework and make recommendations. The country reports may include and not limited to any of the following thematic assessment areas;

  • Impact of COVID-19 Regulations on digital rights and inclusion.
  • Enjoyment of Freedom of Expression online in 2020
  • Data Protection, Privacy, Digital IDs and Surveillance
  • Internet Shutdowns
  • Hate Speech, Misinformation and Criminal Defamation Laws
  • Digital exclusion in Africa and its impact on human rights
  • Digital infrastructure and prioritization of ICT.

 Required expertise and qualification

  • Good understanding of the country to be reported on;
  • A relevant degree qualification.
  • Expertise, knowledge, and experience in digital rights and inclusion.

Guideline for Articles

  • Acceptable Length of Country Report: 1500 words
  • English or French.
  • Authors to please ensure that all statistics, facts and data are properly referenced.
  • Only 1 country report per researcher will be accepted.

Interested candidates, kindly submit a response together with a copy of your resume and sample written work by 19 September 2020 here. Full timelines will be communicated to successful candidates. Responses will be communicated on 1 October 2020.

Vacancy: Finance and Assets Manager

By | DigitalJobs, ICTs, L.I.F.E.

Paradigm Initiative (PIN) is a non-profit social enterprise that builds ICT-enabled support systems for young people, in order to improve their livelihoods. Two of PIN’s programs focus on digital inclusion while the third focuses on digital rights advocacy. Paradigm Initiative’s digital rights advocacy program is focused on the development of public policy for internet freedom in key regions of Africa. Our policy advocacy efforts include media campaigns, coalition building, capacity building, research and report-writing.

Job Summary:

The Finance and Assets Manager will be responsible for the financial health of Paradigm Initiative. One of his/her core functions will be to produce financial reports and develop strategies based on financial research. The successful candidate will guide and support the Leadership Team and Executive Director in making sound business decisions in the long and short term.

The FAM will be responsible for distributing the financial resources of Paradigm Initiative including budget planning and will support the executive management team by offering insights and financial advice that will facilitate sound business decision-making

Reporting To:

Executive Director

Responsibilities:

  • Monitor the day-to-day financial operations within the company, such as payroll, invoicing, and other transactions
  • Oversee financial department employees, including financial assistants and accountants
  • Prepare monthly and annual Management Reports
  • Manage the liquidity of the Organization
  • Contract outside services for tax preparation, auditing, banking, investments, and other financial needs as necessary
  • Track the company’s financial status and performance to identify areas for potential improvement
  • Seek out methods for minimising financial risk to the company
  • Research and analyse financial reports and market trends
  • Provide insightful information and expectations to senior executives to aid in long-term and short-term decision making
  • Review financial data and prepare monthly and annual reports
  • Prepare and present financial reports to board members, stakeholders, executives, and clients in formal meetings
  • Stay up-to-date with technological advances and accounting software to be used for financial purposes
  • Establish and maintain financial policies and procedures for the company
  • Understand and adhere to financial regulations and legislation
  • Prepare financial reports and reconciliations to general ledger data
  • Make timely recommendations for mitigating strategies and risk rating changes
  • Prepare and review timely assets management reports
  • Prepare regular investment reports and risk assessment of investments
  • Manage and maintain all properties and acquisitions
  • Strategize on the best model for managing the organization’s assets and resources
  • Conduct periodic review of all assets and acquisitions
  • Evaluate the value of all properties and suggesting ways for generating revenue
  • Objectively review Paradigm Initiative’s business processes
  • Evaluate the efficacy of risk management procedures that are currently in place
  • Protect against fraud and theft of Paradigm Initiative’s assets

Required Skills and competencies

  • Excellent verbal and written communication skills;
  • Excellent organizational skills, follow-through attitude and attention to details;
  • Strong analytical and problem-solving skills;
  • Good supervisory and leadership skills;
  • Research skills;
  • Critical thinking skills;
  • Innovative and creative abilities;
  • Integrity;
  • Multi-tasking abilities;
  • Honesty;
  • Thorough knowledge of relevant laws on Accounting and Taxation;
  • Knowledge of and experience with various Accounting software such as Quickbooks.

Education and Experience

  • A First Degree in Accounting, Economics or Finance;
  • Must be a member of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants or the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria;
  • Possession of a second degree will be an added advantage;
  • Must have at least 7 years’ hands-on experience in a Senior Finance role;
  • Hands-on knowledge of relevant accounting and taxation laws.
  • A background in audit would be an added advantage.

Key Performance Indicators

  • Monitoring the day-to-day financial operations within the company, such as payroll, invoicing, and other transactions;
  • Developing, implementing and monitoring Financial strategies and initiatives 
  • Regular development of overall Financial strategies, systems, tactics and procedures aligned with Paradigm Initiative’s Best Place To Work initiative and Strategic Management Plan;
  • Minimizing costs and maximizing profits to promote organizational growth;
  • Performing internal and external auditing functions when required;
  • Procurement of quality assets and items for the organisation at the best price;
  • Tagging of assets at a maximum of 2 days after purchase;
  • Quarterly update of inventory of assets in all PIN’s offices;
  • Annual error-free auditing of the Organization’s finances;
  • Monthly error-free drafting of financial reports;
  • Monthly statutory payments;
  • Maximum of 3 days downtime for any asset.

For the purpose of gender balance, a female candidate will be preferred. 

How to apply

Qualified candidates should send their resume with subject as FINANCE AND ASSETS MANAGER to hr@paradigmhq.org.

The application closes on Friday, October 30, 2020, but the position will be filled as soon as we find the right fit. If you think you are the right fit, do not delay in sending in your application. Only shortlisted candidates will be contacted.

Compensation very attractive. 

Déclaration de Paradigm Initiative sur les pertubations d’Internet au Mali

By | ICTs, Internet Freedom, Press Release

 

Les Organisations de la Société Civile au Mali sont encore profondément préoccupées par les multiples coupures d’Internet enregistrées avant et pendant les deux tours de l’élection présidentielle de 2018.

En effet le 29 Juillet 2018, jour du premier tour de l’élection présidentielle au Mali, le pays a enregistré à plusieurs reprises des coupures d’internet. Selon certains utilisateurs des TIC, l’ensemble des communications électroniques ont été perturbés pendant la période électorale.

Ces perturbations des réseaux Internet enregistrées s’ajoutent à celles de ces derniers mois dans le pays. La perturbation des médias sociaux tels que WhatsApp, Facebook, YouTube et Skype est aussi une pratique régulière utilisée par le gouvernement pour entraver la communication entre les populations en période électorale et limiter l’action des opposants.

Au regard de la situation, Paradigm Initiative ainsi que l’ensemble des organisations de la société civile rappellent au gouvernement Malien que de tels actes violent la Déclaration Universelle des Droits Humains(DUDH), les déclarations sur les libertés de l’Internet et de la Gouvernance de l’Internet de l’Union Africaine(UA).

Paradigm Initiative appelle par ailleurs le gouvernement Malien à rétablir sans délai l’ensemble des réseaux Internet de communication sur l’ensemble du territoire national, tout s’abstenant de provoquer de nouvelles perturbations dans la période postélectorale.

Paradigm Initiative demande enfin que les réclamations concernant les différentes violations des droits numériques soient réparées tout en favorisant un accès équitable au service Internet sur l’ensemble du territoire national.

Digital Rights Workshop: Empowering Advocates in Cameroon

By | ICT Policy, ICTs, Internet Freedom

Paradigm Initiative in partnership with Internews, AfroLeadership, and CYEED organized a 4-day Digital Rights Workshop from the 18th day of June 2018 to the 21st June 2018 in Douala, Cameroun.

The aim of the workshop was to discuss with civil societies, government, private individuals and other stakeholders in the digital rights landscape of Cameroon and to also train participants on their Digital Rights and on advocacy. This training in June was the third training held in Cameroon as previous training had been held in both Barmenda and Yaounde.

                                      

Participants at this workshop were exposed to a variety of training and resources. While the first two days witnessed new participants, the last two days were for selected persons from groups which had already been working on projects surrounding digital rights from the last two sessions.

One of the first and basic subjects on which the participants were trained was on the topic of what Digital Rights entail, in a session tagged  ‘Digital Rights 101’ led by ‘Gbenga Sesan, Executive Director of Paradigm Initiative. Participants were trained on what internet and digital rights are, on the power of the internet, privacy surveillance, freedom of expression, opinion, association and so on.

In another more streamlined session on ICT Policy in Cameroon, the Google Policy Fellow at Paradigm Initiative, Rigobert Kenmogne treated issues like the laws and the evolution of ICT policies in Cameroon, ICT players and other factors contributing to the ICT Policy landscape in Cameroon.

The session on advocacy and communications was quite impactful as participants not only learned about strategies for advocacy but also on how to communicate a message. The participants were taught on project evaluation and monitoring, knowledge development, public speaking, creating coalitions and so on.

At the same training, a report was also presented by Adeboro Odunlami, Program Assistant (Digital Rights), Paradigm Initiative. The report embodied a case study on the digital rights situation in francophone African countries. At this session, almost all participants shared experiences on the negative effect of digital rights violation witnessed in their country. Paradigm Initiative also shared some lessons it learned from the Africa NetRights Coalition and the Digital Rights and Freedom Bill.

As the workshop progressed, participants were made to carry out practical tasks and discussions.

A session on ‘Building Trust and Relationships’ witnessed the participants answering questions such as ‘what is the current digital rights landscape in Cameroun?’, ‘where does my Organization/work fit in?’, ‘How can we all work together to make each other stronger?’ and other pertinent questions

At the end of this session, many participants revealed personal and organizational skills and resources which they’d be willing to share with other civil societies towards the goal of solving problems we had earlier identified.

For instance, a participant offered free workspace and technological support to another participant who indicated that his organization was working on a website compendium of laws and decrees of Cameroon in English and French language. Yet another participant offered free training for the Interns of participant organizations on Digital Media and Digital Rights. Another offered free social media visibility services and graphic design services. Another offered her skill to engender projects and make other Organizations’ projects more inclusive. Furthermore, another participant offered digital security training for free. There were also offers of free Newspaper pages for Advocacy materials and subsidized training on Communication, Writing Report and Press releases

Participants were also involved in other hands-on sessions where they prepared solutions to problems projected to occur at the upcoming election. Ideas/solutions presented involved building a coalition to facilitate internet access, writing open letters to the government, sensitization, and education of the electorate, managing post-election violence and so on.

                                                          

Also at the workshop, Internews shared a guideline with the participants to facilitate a better understanding of its sub-grant application process.

Elevator pitches were also facilitated by all partners at the workshop to train participants on the proper and precise communication of ideas; a much-needed skill for advocacy

More topics treated at the workshop include budget development and project management for their digital rights projects.

How Nigeria and the Developing World Can Help Reduce the Connectivity Gap

By | ICTs

By Babatunde Okunoye

According to the Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development, the world will achieve 50% internet use by the world population at the end of 2018 – just over 7 months away. If the world maintains current internet user growth rates, we will not approach 100% global internet adoption for another two decades.

Achieving 50% internet use by the end of 2018 represents big progress, yet much needs to be done to ensure that in our world of about 7.4 billion people, the roughly 4 billion still unconnected access the enormous developmental potential of the internet.

The Broadband Commission’s in its 2025 plans for connecting the unconnected global population to the internet, has set ambitious targets which include:

  1. By 2025, all countries should have a funded National Broadband Plan or strategy or include broadband in their Universal Access and Service (UAS) Definition
  2. By 2025, entry-level broadband services should be made affordable in developing countries at less than 2% of monthly Gross National Income (GNI) per capita
  3. By 2025, Broadband-Internet user penetration should reach: a) 75% worldwide b) 65% in developing countries c) 35% in the least Developed Countries
  4. By 2025, 60% of youth and adults should have achieved at least a minimum level of proficiency in sustainable digital skills
  5. By 2025, 40% of the world’s population should be using digital financial services
  6. By 2025, overcome unconnectedness of Micro-, Small- and Medium-sized Enterprises (MSMEs) by 50%, by sector
  7. By 2025, gender equality should be achieved across all targets

As target “3” clearly reveals, there is an admission that the developing world is crucial in the attainments of broadband access plans. Countries in the developing world such as India (1.29 billion), Indonesia (262.7 million) in Asia and Nigeria (198 million) and Ethiopia (108 million) in Africa account for a very significant proportion of their continent’s population and thus hold the key to bridging the digital divide.

Interestingly, according to data from the International Telecommunications Union, all of these four pivotal nations have Internet penetration less than 30%. It is easy to see how focused policy efforts in the efficient use of Universal Service Provision Funds, free urban Wi-Fi zones, removal of multiple taxation schemes such as “Right of Way” payments, the use of innovative new technologies like TV white spaces in these strategic nations can make a significant impact on global digital access statistics.

In Nigeria in particular, the National Broadband plan is scheduled to be revised this year. With many parts of the country (particularly rural areas) still lacking access to the Internet, all options must be on the table to bridge the digital divide in Africa’s most populous nation. While the current broadband plan mentioned the possibility of exploring innovative technologies like TV white spaces, in implementing this strategy was neglected. Yet the poor Internet coverage in inaccessible rural areas in Nigeria is the precise reason why such innovative technologies must be an integral part of the revised broadband plan.

 

Babatunde Okunoye works as Research Officer at Paradigm Initiative.

Call for Application: Fully-sponsored participation at the 2018 Nigeria Internet Governance Forum

By | DigitalJobs, ICTs

Paradigm Initiative is pleased to announce its fully funded Fellowships to the Nigerian Internet Governance Forum 2018.  

The fellowship is open to all undergraduates in their penultimate year (year before final year), irrespective of field of study.

Selected fellows will be sponsored to attend the 2018 Nigeria Internet Governance Forum in Abuja in July 2018. The fellowship will cover flight, accommodation and per diem.

Selection will be based on the following criteria:

  1. Keen interest in ICT Policy issues in general, and Digital Rights in particular
  2. Willingness to complete a final year project related to Digital Rights, irrespective of field of study and angle (legal, technical, social, etc) of approach to the relevant issues
  3. Availability to travel to — and from Abuja — between July 1 and 4, 2018

Fellows who dedicate their final year thesis to a digital rights issue may also be supported by Paradigm Initiative in their research.  

If you would like to secure one of the five (5) fellowship slots, please do the following:

  1. Record a 3-minute video of yourself speaking on what “Digital Rights” means to you as a young Nigerian.
  2. Upload the video online and share on social media, using the hashtag #NIGF18withPI, and copy @ParadigmHQ
  3. Fill this form and make sure to include the link to your video: http://bit.ly/PInigf

 

You must complete all three steps above before 12 midnight June 15, 2018, when the competition will end. Please note that applications after this deadline will not be considered.   

Brenda Okoro’s MobbiCheck Story: Lessons in Digital Innovation and Persistence

By | Coding, DigitalJobs, ICTs

By Babatunde Okunoye

Every story has its beginning and Brenda Okoro’s story must be told from its very beginning. Brenda’s programming passion was born out of deep curiosity for all things technical. While in Secondary School she had a friend who was exposed to computers early so Brenda would usually go to her house and beg to be allowed to play with her personal Computer (to play games of course!). When fancy mobile phones started evolving, Brenda’s Mom bought her an LG flip phone which she used to play games. However, she noticed that every time she launched a game application, an image popped up with the text ‘Java’ so that triggered her to begin researching what Java was all about.

While in secondary school also Brenda studied Computer Science which did not a great impression on her. She, however, learnt how to draw using the paint application at that time. When she completed secondary school, Brenda told her parents of her desire to attend a computer training institute. Luckily they agreed and enrolled her in a 6-months diploma program while she continued seeking admission into a tertiary institution. During the training, Brenda was introduced to QBASIC, her very first programming language. She did well in the training and finished with a distinction and was offered employment in the computer institute.

In 2012, when Brenda gained admission into Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU, #GreatIfe) to study Computer Science & Engineering, she dreamt of making a first class. She also planned to make a meaningful societal impact through the use of information technology. While she did not make the first class, she did succeed on the second objective of acquiring tech skills for social development.

The tech for good journey took one fateful day when a team from Paradigm Initiative landed on the OAU campus. The team was visited Brenda’s department in OAU and students were asked to wait behind after lectures. The Executive Director of Paradigm Initiative, Mr. ‘Gbenga Sesan, who spoke to the students, narrated his success story to the students and encouraged them to think outside the box in their pursuit of career success. When Sesan, himself an alumnus of OAU, concluded his speech, his team introduced the student to TENT (Techie Entrepreneurial Nigeria Talented, now TECHTIARY), a new program Paradigm Initiative chose to pioneer in OAU.  The aim of TENT was to encourage university students to build startups/tech products & services of their own so that when they graduate they wouldn’t need to loiter around looking for virtually nonexistent jobs. At the very least TENT would help the students pick up relevant skills. The OAU students were encouraged to come up with ideas which would solve local problems around them. Some 100 students signed up for TENT at OAU that year, and Brenda was one of them.

At the first TENT Gathering (the national annual meeting of students involved in TENT in Nigeria), students were asked to present a tech idea to solve a societal problem. Brenda presented an idea delivering a health solution (later to be called MobbiCheck) which helps citizens locate the nearest health centre and provides critical health information. At the end of the three-day event, the best three ideas were chosen and Brenda’s idea wasn’t among them. Naturally, she felt bad though but was determined to succeed next time and never gave up on her idea. Brenda consulted a senior colleague in Google Developer Group (GDG) OAU on how best to develop her idea for future success. His advice, which was prescient, was for her to pick up a programming language.

Luckily Brenda’s department organized programming tutorials on Java so she borrowed her roommate’s laptop and installed Netbeans (integrated development environment for Java) on it. She attended the Java tutorials but didn’t follow through at all, because initially, everything seemed like Spanish. Then came the long break due to the university strike action so Brenda went home and was finally able to learn the rudiments of Java at the same computer training institute she was enrolled in prior to joining OAU.

Then all of a sudden, with more study and practice, Java started making sense to Brenda but she didn’t have a Personal Computer to practice with so she usually went early to the training institute to do assignments and practice. Then the University strike was called off and Brenda went back to school. It was during this term she was introduced to Python but it was mostly theory. Like most students, Brenda opted for the usual ‘cram and pass’ reading. However, her recent knowledge of Java helped her flow much more easily with the course.

In her second year at OAU, as part of TENT OAU activities ahead of 2013 national TENT Gathering, Brenda was asked to build a prototype of the idea she submitted in the last competition. She again asked a senior colleague the best implementation course for the project and he suggested building the prototype on J2ME (Java 2 Mobile Edition). Brenda travelled all the way back to school, borrowed a computer from a friend and learnt J2ME, implemented the prototype on a Nokia phone and presented it during TENT gathering 2013. At the end of the event when the 3 best prototypes were chosen, Brenda’s project was selected and was chosen to partake in Paradigm Initiative’s TENT Angel Investment Scheme – which is a program of long-term support for technopreneurs, created with the support of Nick Jekogian, a board member of Paradigm Initiative and an entrepreneur based in the United States. This represented a victory and change of fortune for Brenda, whose project now received funding and support from one of the leading organizations working in digital inclusion in Africa.

When school resumed Brenda became a superstar and received a lot of calls from participants, congratulatory messages from her course mates and from her lecturers. She became so popular and got her first laptop as a gift from her Mom. She later joined a research lab (iLAB) to sharpen her skills and find team members because an important expert advice and feedback she obtained during TENT 2013 was to work with a team to improve her project’s chances of success. Later that year the Open Technology Movement (OTM) was organized on OAU campus and there she met her team mates. There the new team extensively discussed Brenda’s TENT project and decided to implement it on the Android platform. They also chose a name for the new app – MobbiCheck. Brenda’s knowledge of Android development was limited at the time so she left the implementation to a member of her team who was an Android developer.

As the head of the team, Brenda’s plan was to implement MobbiCheck on both web and mobile so she had to allocate tasks among her group members. Although this division of labour seemed to work for a while, the team eventually fell apart and Brenda was devastated, torn apart and broken. She didn’t know what to do but somehow found the strength to move on. Fortunately she had a plan B, an emergency team. Essentially this involved calling her friends that were very good developers and together they were able to build something worth presenting within a few hours to 2014 TENT gathering held at Benson Idahosa University Edo state. The TENT gathering was a success that year and there were 11 participants from OAU Ife alone. Against all odds, Brenda’s team had a good outing at the TENT program.

Brenda reorganized her team after settling disputes and misunderstandings.  The team also changed their focus to major on Android development. Luckily, Android Code jams organized by the Google Development Group (GDG) had begun at that time so she used the opportunity to learn Android in-depth. During this process, the project lagged behind as a result of the time spent trying to set up the Android studio. The increasing workload of university 300 level courses at OAU Ife too did not help matters. So Brenda opted for online tutorials to help bridge the time and knowledge gap. The project however suffered as Brenda struggled to balance school work and her entrepreneurship pursuits.

TENT gathering 2015 was once again approaching and Brenda, now in 400 level, was already attached to an organization for SIWES (Students Industrial Work Experience Scheme). During her SIWES she worked as an Android developer and improved her skills in Android but was so tied up with SIWES work that she had little time to focus on her TENT project.

When it was time for final year projects, Brenda chose to work on a home automation project to control appliances using voice activation. Although it was the model for the TENT program, she couldn’t use her TENT project as her final year project because it was purely software and her departmental requirements required her to work on a hardware project as a computer engineer. At this stage she was sufficiently proficient in Android development and so could assist her team in the development. In the meantime, a member of her team graduated and got a job and couldn’t continue so yet there was a critical manpower shortage in her team. There was pressure now to Brenda to give up but she didn’t. She instead went for yet another Tech event – a hackathon organized by Konga and participated with a makeshift team of three for the event. Her team members, on hearing of her Mobbi-check project decided to become her project team members. It was then decided to change the Mobbicheck user interface and add content to it. The team then made considerable progress, and Brenda became more experienced in balancing this project with her school work.

At around this time, Brenda got a scholarship for the Udacity Android development Nanodegree. She was elated and immediately downloaded the videos and got busy with projects. There was also a deadline to launch the app on PlayStore before the end of November 2017 as there was a planned presentation of the finished product in Lagos during Techiary Forum 2017. Just towards the end of October however her Nanodegree training was terminated because she did something against the rules (unintentionally). This new setback devastated Brenda and she became somewhat depressed to the point of deciding not to code again. Nevertheless, somehow she did not give up, in part as a result of encouragement from her sponsor and mentor who encouraged her to keep learning even though she wouldn’t get the certificate from Udacity.

November 2017 is one month Brenda won’t forget in a hurry because she worked round the clock to complete the MobbiCheck app ahead of the deadlines imposed by Playstore and the Techtiary team. As a result of the closeness of the deadlines, Brenda met a friend to help work on an app feature while she focused on other aspects of the project. Together they completed the app and launched it on Playstore. This represented a major breakthrough and milestone for her. In the feeling of elation, joy and fulfillment that followed, Brenda shared the link to the app with a few of her contacts to get feedback for improvement of a better version. All considered, in Brenda’s own reckoning and I’m sure many will agree with her, MobbiCheck is gearing up to be a success story. The MobbiCheck app, which helps Nigerians locate local health care centres closest to them and provides important health information, is a story of a locally developed solution, and how its development is overcoming the odds usually stacked against technopreneurs in Nigeria.

You can check out MobbiCheck on the Google PlayStore via the link:

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.insight.mobbicheck&hl=en

 

Lessons learned

  1. Don’t rush into just picking anyone as a team mate. Take your time and choose wisely.
  2. Learn the skill if you must it’s very important.
  3. Try hard not to procrastinate and be determined to finish a course (whatever it is) you started.

 

 

 

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