The 1st We Speak Code-Transform Kisumu Digital Literacy Program, graduation ceremony was held on Thursday 16th June 2016 at Jomo Kenyatta Sports Ground. A total of 579 graduates, who are standard eight levers, received certification on digital literacy skills, coding skills, online work skills, life skills, financial literacy and entrepreneurship skills to enhance their employability prospects and income generating capacities.

The program targeting 1,400 young people ages 18 – 35 years from all the seven Sub – Counties, is a partnership between, The African Center for Women Information and Communications Technology (ACWICT) in partnership with The County Government of Kisumu, Microsoft Corporation and The Rockefeller Foundation.

The Transform Kisumu Digital Literacy Program is the first of its kind in the county keen on the plight of standard 8 leavers. Under the county’s #TransformKisumu broad objective of creating the highest density of coders in Africa, the program seeks to encourage their positive involvement to solving issues which affect them, treating them as resources, not as problems.

H.E Jack Ranguma said, “The #TransformKisumu agenda being actualized across the county will ensure that Kisumu becomes the hub of technology on the African continent, with the city as Africa’s premier smart city.”

In his speech he also announced that he will be launching another program in the building and construction industry coupled with creative and digital skills also targeting standard eight leavers. Employment opportunities were also unraveled during the ceremony, as The Governor also declared that Homeboyz Foundation, will take up 10 beneficiaries who were graduating and another 40 in the next 6 months.

At the ceremony, the beneficiaries graduating from the program are certainly proved to deserve the second chance provided, and they grabbed the opportunity to showcase the skilled earned. Amongst them was Simon Oyando whom after the week of coding training, came up with a mobile App concept called M-Security. Instead of using letters in messaging, the mobile App employed matrix system unique only to its intended users, and hence blocking out unwarranted informers.

“If adopted by our security system, then criminals will never get information ahead of the police hence prompting their immediate arrest,” he added.

Yet another beneficiary, Mr. Mito Ouma, a boda boda rider, cracked the guests’ ribs with the testimonial he presented. He says before he joined the training program, he only knew the monitor as the ‘class prefect’, while the mouse as ‘rat’. But due to his engagement with the program, he has understood the new meanings and uses of these devices. He proudly confirms that he is now able to use the skills and knowledge in searching for jobs especially through the internet using employability platforms the like TukoWorks portal.

In support of youth empowerment, the funding partners, Microsoft Corporation and Rockefeller Foundation have supported the program on different scales.

Microsoft Corporation in partnership with ACWICT through its Youth Spark initiative are aiming at empowering 4200 youth in the country with the foundational knowledge of computer science skills through in – person trainings on digital literacy, computer applications, programming and coding. Already the 579 graduates reached in the program make part of the 1400 out of school beneficiaries targeted by the initiative.

Microsoft East and Southern Africa, Corporate Social Investment Manager, Mr. Alex Nyingi said, “From the mobile apps presented today, we can see how young people are looking at technology being relevant to addressing the challenges and opportunities we have in the county.”

He further provided the graduates with an opportunity to utilize their skills under the skype translator, and challenged them to the first to develop a sky translator app in dholou that would help people across the world understand the language when communicating to person who isn’t familiar with it.

The Rockefeller Foundation on the other hand under its Digital Jobs Africa Initiative, that seeks to catalyze sustainable ICT enabled employment opportunities for Africa high potential but disadvantaged youth have supported the online work training component of the program as an alternative source of income.

Having successfully up skilled the first bunch of beneficiaries, the graduation marks an important milestone to the program. The 579 graduates have undergone training on the concepts and principles of coding as well as how to pitch their apps in a business case presentation. In addition, they have also been equipped with skills of exploring the web, managing information; social media marketing and introduced to online work concept and its benefits to help them find an alternative source of earning a living.

The Executive Director of The African Centre for Women Information and Communications Technology Ms. Constantine Obuya said, “The youth graduating from the program will possess the foundational problem-solving, creativity, and teamwork skills that will help them succeed and stay competitive in achieving their life goals.”

Other distinguished guests who commemorated the ceremony included Prof. Bitange Ndemo, former PS in the Ministry of Information and Communications Technology and Dr. Sheila Ochugboju Roving Ambassador for the County Government of Kisumu.