A network of wifi hotspots that improves refugee access to online education and facilitates communication within and beyond the camp.
A station can handle 5mbps maximum from the Internet Service Provider (ISP). We currently have 3 stations in 3 neighborhoods serving 120+ users.
Each access point stands on a wood pole between 7 and 10 meters high. Our network uses both wire and point-to-point connection. The station and each access point are powered by a solar system (solar panels, battery, charge controller, and inverter). Funds earned in the competition will allow the team to upgrade all devices to enterprise standard and use metallic poles instead of wood for greater stability.
We have 4 subscription plans- KES 20 hourly, KES 50 daily, KES 150 weekly, and KES 600 monthly.
What problem does the idea help to solve and how does your solution work? (2,000 characters maximum)
Approximately 160,000 refugees live in Kakuma Camp in remote northwestern Kenya where there is poor access to major Kenyan business centers. Kakuma represents a protracted refugee situation, one where young people and adults alike are confined to the immediate environment, with little opportunity to pursue education or employment outside of the camp. As such, almost all of the young people pursuing higher education and professional courses are enrolled in online programs that do not require them to leave the camp. However, internet connectivity is unreliable at best, nonexistent at worst, and expensive in any case. An entire generation is eager to communicate, share information and ideas, conduct business with and learn from communities as close as Kalobeyei and far away as Arizona.
There are few learning centers in the camp, and because of Kakuma’s sprawling landscape, the centers can be quite far from where students live. This makes travel to classrooms and computer centers costly and time intensive. Additionally, these centers are crowded, the internet is unpredictable and they only operate during business hours where the heat is at its peak. This further complicates travel to and use of computer centers as the primary source of internet access. Because refugees in Kakuma camp have family and/or work responsibilities, students, businesses, and individuals need flexible access and reliable connectivity at a more affordable price. This will enable refugees to conduct online activities from their businesses, home, or neighborhood station at their convenience, whether day or night. As a result, members of the community can redirect the time, money, and energy they would have spent traveling to learning centers and other internet hubs. Finally, education institutions that have heretofore been limited by the capacity of computer centers can offer tertiary education programs to more students, increasing the skill level and livelihood potential of the camp at-large.
Geography of focus (500 characters)
Kakuma refugee camp is located in the Turkana District of northwestern Kenya, approximately 120 km from Lodwar (the nearest big city) and 95 km from the Kenya- South Sudan border. Opened in 1992 to serve Sudanese refugees, Kakuma is now home to refugees from Somalia, Ethiopia, DRC, Burundi, Eritrea, Uganda and Rwanda. Given its diversity, refugees in Kakuma are already adept at building bridges across linguistic and cultural divides. Kakuma is heralded as a hotbed of entrepreneurial activity.
Building Bridges: What bridge does your idea build between people on the move and neighbors towards a shared future of stability and promise? (500 characters)
Our idea will enable refugees in Kakuma and members of the semi-nomadic Turkana tribe living just outside the camp to engage in commerce and therefore boost the mutual economic stability of the region more broadly. Providing internet supports the creation of new entrepreneurial activity, expansion into new markets, stabilizes relationships and harnesses the educational potential of an entire region that has been historically underserved.
What human need is your idea solving for? (1,000 characters)
Human connection, the pursuit of knowledge and doing meaningful work are hallmarks of a dignified, hopeful, and joyous life. When a person is confined to a particular space, with no freedom to move around and pursue his or her interests, human needs are not being met. Though we cannot yet alter the restrictive policy of limited freedom of movement, we can build a bridge to the outside world through providing access to reliable and convenient internet. Refugees can then contact family members outside of the camp with regularity, can pursue informal and more formalized educational programs, and university-aged students who are interested can enroll in higher education programs that will provide them with the skills to be able to find meaningful and dignified employment such that they can later provide for their families, pass on a love of learning to their children, and pursue their individual passions and ambitions no matter where life takes them.
What will be different within the community of focus as a result of implementing your idea? (1,000 characters)
Following the implementation of 8 total wifi hotspots (2 in each section of Kakuma) and the improvement of the 3 that are currently in operation, community members will i) have greater access to affordable and reliable connectivity; ii) have real-time access to learning content and other information; iii) have the ability to conduct online business transactions; iv) connect with family and friends with ease and regularity; v) create local jobs and build sustainable businesses; vi) enjoy quicker access to helpful information, especially concerning security and disaster alerts; and vii) partake in existing and relevant remote work opportunities. Additionally, several residents will be enlisted to manage the delivery of the service, earning them a commission-based employment opportunity.
We will interview users before and after enrollment in the service, and understand how the ability to connect with others and information online has impacted their daily lives and future outlook.
What is the inspiration behind your idea? (1,000 characters)
The ASU team met Innocent over a year ago, and we hoped to collaborate on an Entrepreneurship training for Kakuma Ventures employees and others who were looking for hands-on training and mentorship to get their businesses off the ground. Upon discussing trainings that ASU already offers in other parts of the world, we soon realized that our existing online content was too "heavy" for KV's internet- graphics and videos in the course placed too much of a load on existing bandwidth. On subsequent trips to Kakuma we repeatedly heard that students in education programs travel long distances to use the computers and internet due to the expanse of the camp. We decided to bring the connectivity directly to them, effectively reversing the existing process. It became clear that a solid internet infrastructure had to be built in order to offer university-level courses, reach more students, limit dropout and ease the burden of pursuing an education for those already dedicated learners.
Describe the dynamics of the community in which the idea is to be implemented. (1,000 characters)
Kakuma Connected is the best kind of innovation- one that has positive externalities for those outside of the intended target audience. As long as someone pays the subscription fee- whether for the hour, the day, or the month, he/she can become a member of the "connected" community. However, the target users for our collaboration are youth between the ages of 17-35 who would like to pursue English language training, entrepreneurship training, or university preparation and undergraduate courses with Arizona State University. The learners we currently work with have ambition to be entrepreneurs, teachers, medical professionals, computer engineers, etc. We hope to provide them with tangible skills that can be of use no matter where the future takes them, whether that is home, Kenya, or a third country altogether. Solid internet connection is critical to ensure that we can provide learners access to the opportunity to excel in their studies.
A student begins English training through Arizona State University.
Education for Humanity provides Learn English Now courses at no cost to learners. A local facilitator from the community is selected to run face-to-face sessions that occur in addition to the modules that students complete online.
A facilitator helps learners understand the expectations of being an Arizona State University student.
How does your idea leverage and empower community strengths and assets to help create an environment for success? (1,000 characters)
Kakuma Connected leverages local enterprise and talent to develop a sustainable solution to an infrastructure problem. Our idea also helps local businesses to expand by conducting business online and therefore reaching more people and building bridges between the community in Kakuma and the surrounding Turkana region. By employing local people to serve as “ambassadors” and managers of each neighborhood station, our idea also creates new livelihood opportunities for refugees involved. Due to the protracted nature of displacement for many refugees in Kakuma (most have lived there for over a decade), not only is the community well-integrated but most have a vast network of relatives, friends, and colleagues that have voluntarily relocated to other parts of Kenya, returned home, or have been resettled around the globe. Kakuma Connected serves as a catalytic innovation that will enable refugees to effectively utilize this already established network for both economic and emotional gain.
Funds earned in the competition will enable the team to enclose equipment in a secure and ventilated box.
This station is housed in an "ambassador's" home to shield it from the extreme heat and any other environmental factors that could harm the hardware.
What other partners or stakeholders will work alongside you in implementing the idea, if any? (1,000 characters)
Both Kakuma Ventures and Education for Humanity have strong networks in their respective industries. Kakuma Ventures uses the local Internet Service Provider SafariCom for the internet link and supplies to set up a neighborhood station. They also use Safaricom's mobile payment service Mpesa to receive wire payments from customers. We have a till number that does not charge subscribers for transactions on payments made to Kakuma Ventures. Education for Humanity is currently working with the Norwegian Refugee Council to provide English training to 78 learners in Kakuma. Internet connectivity is one major factor limiting scale, so if we were to improve internet in learners' neighborhoods, we could reach more learners through other organizations in the Connected Learning in Crisis Consortium, which ASU co-leads alongside UNHCR, the UN's Refugee agency. There are currently 23 members, with many of them also operating in Kakuma at this time.
What part of the displacement journey is your solution addressing
Being on the move, crossing borders, and/or temporarily settled
Tell us how you'd describe the type of innovation you are proposing
Systems design: Solutions that target changing larger system
Idea Proposal Stage
Pilot: We have started to implement the idea as a whole with a first set of real users. The feasibility of an innovation is tested in a small-scale and real world application (i.e. 3-15% of the target population)
Group or Organization Name
Education for Humanity and Kakuma Ventures
Tell us more about your group or organization [or lived experience as a displaced person?] (1000 characters)
This innovation represents a collaboration between Kakuma Ventures, co-founded by Innocent Ntumba Tshilombo and Kurt Davis, and the Education for Humanity team at Arizona State University. From the Democratic Republic of Congo, Innocent has lived in Kakuma for over ten years and is the quintessential entrepreneur with an uncanny ability to see a need in his community and meet that need. Because of Kurt's leadership and Innocent's strong network and initiative, the Kakuma Ventures hotspot service averages nearly 50 daily, 40 weekly, and 30 monthly subscribers. With improved materials and greater support, we expect this number to grow exponentially. Education for Humanity provides refugees and other marginalized populations access to higher education programs that align with their individual ambitions by working in collaboration with local organizations, leveraging tech-enabled solutions. Our organization also advances refugee integration through university and workforce partnerships.
Type of submitter
We are a formal part of a University or Research Institution
Organization Headquarters: Country
Kakuma Ventures: Kenya;
Education for Humanity at Arizona State University: USA
Organization Headquarters: City / State
Kakuma Ventures: Kakuma Camp, Turkana Region, Kenya;
Education for Humanity at Arizona State University: Tempe, Arizona, USA