Learning, Innovation and Creation - This is the Uvumbuzi Tech Challenge
InZone has launched a new project in Kakuma Refugee Camp, the Uvumbuzi Tech Challenge. The tech challenge is a pedagogic problem-solving exercise that encourages creative people living in the Kakuma refugee camp and Kalobeyei settlement to work on practical, technology-supported solutions to problems they have identified and rated as the most pressing in their living environments.
Working with the design thinking methodology will allow these young students to think outside the box, use their creativity and find human-centered solutions to problems they encounter in their everyday lives. The project is run in collaboration with engineering students from Kenyatta University (KU) and students from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). This allows the students to discover the challenges and opportunities of remote collaboration as well as the working tools that facilitate it.
Some of the participants in front of the InZone hub in Kakuma with the office manager
Teams and project areas
The preparation phase of the Uvumbuzi Tech Challenge was launched in February 2021 with four online training sessions aimed at introducing the design thinking methodology to interested people in the Kakuma refugee camp and Kalobeyei settlement. The participants that completed the required assignments and training sessions, expressed a strong motivation to participate in the challenge and continue their tertiary studies, went on to Phase 2 of the challenge.
Out of the variety of problems that were shared by applicants in the first phase, an expert committee selected the six that were identified as the most pressing: power/electricity, water management, waste management, cooking/frugal technologies, social issues/education, and agrotechnology.
Seven teams, each consisting of 6 to 8 participants from Kakuma and Kalobeyei and the above-mentioned schools, are working together with technical experts from institutions such as EAWAG/SANDEC, EPFL, AAHI and SUPSI, and design thinking mentors on identifying relevant, sustainable, tech-supported solutions to specific problems within these areas.
Iteration and a constant work-in-progress
A core aspect of design thinking is iteration. Three weeks after the start of the tech challenge, coordinators confirm that this is a learning exercise for everyone involved: Remote collaboration, language barriers, connectivity issues, WhatsApp communication issues, and spontaneous change of training plans require dynamism, flexibility, and ….humor! What can be said is that all teams are well on track, have established their own dynamic, and express enthusiasm and motivation to keep learning.