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NGO Mondo Digital Competencies Program

We provide an innovative digital skills program to empower refugee youth to solve everyday problems and to achieve their professional goals.

Photo of Siisi Saetalu
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What problem does the idea help to solve and how does your solution work? (2,000 characters maximum)

One of the biggest problems that impacts refugee youth all over the world is that due to the instability of the situation and barriers to education in the host country (e.g. different language and curriculum, post-traumatic stress or other health problems, lack of documents, lack of information), a large number of them never attends school after they leave their home country. As the financial situation of refugee families worsens, they resort to negative coping mechanisms, which may include sending children to work. NGO Mondo is convinced that digital skills enable youth to develop themselves further and bridge the gap in learning created by instability. Refugee youth both in Uganda and elsewhere are already looking for opportunities to access digital world, especially through smart phones, but they lack the skills to use it in an efficient and pro-active way. This can lead to pitfalls, such as being victims of online SGBV and scams – or simply not realizing how smartphones and other tools can be used for achieving personal and professional goals. Mondo’s Digital Competencies Program (DCP) material provides the youth with practical skills and emphasizes the security in digital world to ensure that the youth could benefit from digital potential as much as possible. We don't waste time, the trainees start from zero skills, but set up their own simple websites at the end of the course, just 100 learning hours later.

Geography of focus (500 characters)

We have piloted the program among the Syrian refugees in Jordan; IDPs in Syria; and among the Congolese refugees in Uganda. It has proven to be viable in both regions but our current priority is to implement the program more widely in East Africa. We have started from Uganda because it is the largest refugee hosting country in Africa. We have already established one existing partnership in Uganda and a few other contacts with organizations that are working with the refugee youth in the region.

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)

Uganda’ s refugee policy is unique and progressive. We partner up with organizations that already work with the refugee youth in the area, for example offer vocational trainings. Among the participants in the training programs, 40% of the beneficiaries are always nationals. Thereby our Digital Competencies program is not only offered to the refugee youth but also to the host population. The two are learning together and equally benefiting.

What human need is your idea solving for? (1,000 characters)

The idea is solving 3 basic needs: need to be connected, need for solving everyday problems and need for feeling hopeful regarding the future. According to global studies, refugees perceive connectivity as a basic need. Refugees can spend up to a third of their disposable income to stay connected, prioritizing this over spending on clothing, health care and education (UNHCR, Connecting Refugees 2016, p15). Secondly, the practical tools of the program help refugees to use digital tools to find solutions to everyday problems and professional problems. For example, the hairdressing vocational students in Rwamwanja refugee settlement (our pilot programme graduates in Uganda) can now use internet to look for new hairstyles. Lastly, the digital skills open up a world of opportunities for refugees, be it participating in free online courses of world’s best universities or finding job opportunities. Thus it helps them to stay positive and hopeful about their self-development.

What will be different within the community of focus as a result of implementing your idea? (1,000 characters)

The refugee youth are lacking digital skills to make use of digital world in a way that could better their lives. We offer a 6-month long program. We start by carrying out a needs assessment to adjust the course material to local needs. Our team of experts carries out a 5-day training of trainers to the local trainers. The trainers’ team teaches the course to refugee youth while we support the trainers` team through WhatsApp; we carry out a results assessment and deliver the report. The course starts with a baseline questionnaire documenting the skills of the youth before the course. After completion they repeat the questionnaire and we can measure the skills learnt. In Rwamwanja Settlement, after the pilot group training, the trainees created google accounts to their friends and relatives as well, by this creating an environment where they are able to better their lives, come up with digital solutions that are relevant not only to them, but also to their communities at large.

What is the inspiration behind your idea? (1,000 characters)

The idea was first generated in Estonia, which is a country that is known in the world by its innovative and widespread use of online tools. The employers in Estonia found it difficult to find young graduates who would have an understanding of how to use digital tools to solve the work-related challenges.In response a team in Tallinn University created a course that would teach the vocational students digital skills for problem-solving. NGO Mondo saw the potential of developing similar skills in refugee camps and settlements and we adjusted the course to refugee setting. The refugee youth in East Africa are all extremely interested in digital learning, but they have limited access to computers. We included the smartphones into the developed and adjusted program so that the trainees learn how to use the smartphones for ways that go beyond playing games and listening music. Thereby, the learnt skills are applicable immediately.

Describe the dynamics of the community in which the idea is to be implemented. (1,000 characters)

Uganda is the largest refugee hosting country in Africa, hosting 1.2 million refugees (Feb 2019). In 2019, our team visited three refugee settlements in Uganda: Rwamwanja, Kyaka II and Palorinya in order to assess the needs of the community. In all of the three settlements, youth value the importance of digital skills as highly relevant, both for personal and professional goals. According to the Market Assessment Research (451 respondents) conducted in Kyaka II, 61,4% of youth find computer skills very valuable for employment and 62% find that computer skills training is a very valuable part of vocational training. The youth interviewed also emphasized the importance of the Internet in learning new things and in skills development. We found the boys to have more exposure as compared to girls. However, the eagerness to learn was equal and both valued computer skills very highly as part of vocational training (30,04% for girls, 32,02% for boys).

How does your idea leverage and empower community strengths and assets to help create an environment for success? (1,000 characters)

Young people in the target community are extremely eager to learn ICT skills. In focus group interviews, a minority reported of having basic computer lessons during their studies in DR Congo or South Sudan. Generally, computer and smartphone usage was reported as limited to communication and entertainment. The three communities where we want to work in Uganda all have the vocational training centres, which are very important asset in bringing the young people who have been left out of formal education, together to share ideas and develop themselves. In fact, as some of the interviews with the former trainees at the training centres emphasized that they might be working now even in a different field from what they studied at the centre, but the centre gave them perspective, routine, hope etc which has motivated to develop themselves further.

What other partners or stakeholders will work alongside you in implementing the idea, if any? (1,000 characters)

We have developed the digital competencies training material in partnership with Tallinn University and experts from Estonian start-up field (a pitching coach, a photographer, a UX designer, an HR expert) In Uganda we are working in partnership with Finn Church Aid (FCA). FCA is one of the largest Finnish providers of development cooperation and emergency assistance. In Uganda, FCA operates in refugee hosting districts in West Nile and Northern and South Western Uganda, providing basic education to school-aged children and developing young people’s vocational skills. FCA is currently running 3 vocational centres in three different settlements in South Western Uganda and Northern Uganda. We have already partnered up in two of these centres and are looking for funding opportunities for further partnerships. We would want to work with other organizations in East Africa, for example Norwegian Refugee Council, Danish Refugee Council, Windle Trust, The Lutheran World Federation.

What part of the displacement journey is your solution addressing

  • Arriving and settling at a destination community

Tell us how you'd describe the type of innovation you are proposing

  • Service: A new or enhanced service that creates value for end beneficiaries

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

NGO Mondo

Tell us more about your group or organization [or lived experience as a displaced person?] (1000 characters)

NGO Mondo is an independent Estonian non-profit organisation devoted to development cooperation, global education and humanitarian aid. We have delivered humanitarian aid and offered courses to thousands of refugees and displaced persons in Yemen, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan, Turkey, Ukraine and Uganda. All our work is done in cooperation with local partners, who have the best knowledge of communities. Being aware of the issues and problems of the countries we work in guarantees the quality and continuity of our efforts. Two of our members have worked as part of FCA Uganda team as interns over the period of three weeks. They carried out needs assessment for Digital Competencies Program. Estonia is one of the leading countries in the world in terms of e-solutions to everyday problems and digital literacy. To leverage this success and experiences in vulnerable communities, NGO Mondo has developed a Digital Competencies Program in cooperation with Tallinn University.

Website URL:

Type of submitter

  • We are a registered Non-Profit Organization

Organization Headquarters: Country


Organization Headquarters: City / State


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Photo of Ashley Tillman

Hi Siisi Saetalu thanks for sharing your idea! I am so curious do you usually work with NGOs or are there other types of companies who are interested in your training programs? Also I am curious to hear some of your success stories in trainings?

Photo of Maari Ross

Hi Ashley! Siisi Saetalu is currently doing fieldwork in the Rwamanja refugee settlement and she will reply as soon as she gets back to the computer. I can say on behalf of Mondo that we usually work both with NGOs and companies. We always try to engage local entrepreneurs to the program who share their stories with the teams and whom teams can pitch their ideas. As to success stories, one of the Syrian refugees who participated in the program is now developing a platform that connects job seekers and employers for short-term jobs that can be done remotely.

Photo of Siisi Saetalu

Thank you Maari! :)

Photo of Siisi Saetalu

Hi Ashley! Thank you for encouraging words! So far we have only been working with one NGO in East Africa, that is Finn Church Aid (FCA).
Our aim is to partner with organizations who already work in refugee settlements/ refugee camps and ideally even have computer labs so that our program could be easily put in practice. But we are equally interested in partnering with private enterprises who could offer motivating packages for the best trainees (e.g. free web hosting; design support, online courses etc).
As of success stories, we only finished our pilot program in Rwamwanja refugee settlement in April. I was in Rwamwanja last week training new assistant teachers for the program and among them was one of the pilot group trainees! He is now employed as assistant teacher for ICT.
We also heard of many trainees opening up gmail accounts to their family members and friends. The other NGOs who work in the settlement often employ the fast learning and highly motivated refugee youth for the positions in their offices, but its required that they need to have a gmail account. Our ex trainees fill that gap with their skills now.
Please note that the majority of the trainees who participated in the pilot had never touched a computer, they did not own smart phones. Apart from the new FCA training centre there is no computer lab in the whole refugee settlement.

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