Hi - My name is Marc Stephan Nkouly from Bamenda, Cameroon (located in the North West Region of the country). I'm a tech evangelist with many years experience working at a local cyber cafe. More than anything, I'm passionate about open source computing and the doors it can open for my community in Bamenda.
The cyber cafe is being sold and I have a great opportunity to ensure that the space is best utilized to empower the local community. With your help, I can purchase the facility and make it an open source cyber learning center to provide skills training to many people in the community, including many people who have few opportunities to get high quality training.
Update: With days remaining for this campaign, the initial goal is likely out
of reach but that doesn't mean we can't use additional support from
your networks as we have a few exciting developments to mention.
In fact, Stephan has strengthened his relationship with the current owner of the cyber café who is willing to sell the space for less than anticipated - 1.75 million CFA (roughly US $3,700). In other words, the owner has agreed to sell the business and building under an installment plan that is $2,500 less than initially thought.
- The 1st 500 000 CFA (US $1,050) was paid on 18 Mar 2014 (last week) signifying the transfer of responsibility of the business. This is a great step forward!
- The 2nd 750 000 CFA (US $1,600) will be paid by 18 June 2014 (3 months from now).
- The 3rd 500 000 CFA (US $1,050) will be paid by 18 Sept 2014 (6 months from now) upon which will result the transfer of the property through deed of sale.
We are not sure how the next couple of months will proceed, but all funds raised from here out will go toward the June 18th payment for the cyber café. An offline campaign is also in progress to raise awareness for the need to fund Marc Stephan's dream to empower the community of Bamenda.
"The child destined to invent the next version of the internet could be without a computer right now. We need to change that." - Ken Starks, Reglue.orgEmpowerment is about having the ability to use knowledge, to make decisions on your own behalf, and to improve the society. In today's world, computing skills are crucial. We are making Cameroon into an information society and a regional leader in ICT business and tech incubation. Training centers in the area currently act as "train and go" rather than "train and grow." Many people are reluctant to come in. Users may learn to surf the Internet or use social media but they do not stay to learn lifelong knowledge. Better access to information means developing abilities to solve problems facing society. Computer education builds self-esteem and can be a great outlet for creativity and teamwork.
Youth using computers at the cafe
"What the whole world wants is a good job." - Jim Clifton, Gallup CEOOur vision is that community empowerment can happen through the use low-cost computers and free software. Specifically, we are proposing an innovative, community-based and community-driven information and communication center that emphasizes the importance of using a wide range of technologies for critical thinking. It will make a significant contribution to building a more inclusive society. The center will cater to all groups, including people who are poor, disabled, or marginalized for other reasons. In short, it will address the diverse needs of the majority of the people in the Bamenda region.
Here's why we need it:
In developing countries, most workers earn a living through agriculture or domestic service. A living wage is hard to come by. Poor infrastructure makes it difficult to create new jobs. Fortunately, the Internet is changing the cycle of poverty as people are able to develop skills that allow them to create new forms of business that tie-in with the global economy.
Mobile phones are common in the North West region of Cameroon but few young people have an environment whether they can learn useful computer skills. Schools lack an ICT curriculum and most cyber cafes do not provide training. Few Cameroonians know how to use a computer to find a job, launch their own business, or learn about the world.
There are several groups of people who could benefit from a more socially oriented model of computer based learning and employment. People who are poor and vulnerable are particularly affected, but also have strengths and opportunities. In developing nations like Cameroon, youth (those under 30), women, people living with disabilities and chronic illnesses are often seeking employment but face discrimination and disproportionately high unemployment rates.
Women are welcomed with open arms to use the cafe
Some people have never had the opportunity to use a computer, and now don’t have the courage to enter an internet cafe. Many others, who do have the courage to come to a cybercafe, don't even have basic understandings of computers and the internet. Those who do come and do research on a topic (usually related to what they do offline) are expecting the internet, through a search engine, to give them the answer. Unfortunately, when they don't find the kind of answer they were hoping for, they feel reluctant to come next time.
From these observations, we have seen the need to create a safe and inclusive space for people to admit they don’t know about computers so they can learn more.
In an ideal educational system, these people would have acquired the skills they need to be comfortable with the internet and computers at school and at home as they grow up. Unfortunately, the education system in developing countries such as Cameroon’s is not adequate. There are many youth who went to professional training centers but who fail to translate their learning into jobs. This group could also be useful mentors and trainers to those who are just learning about ICT.
In addition, there is a group of people who have learned extensive ICT skills on their own in informal environments but who cannot leverage their knowledge, because they don't have any certificate to demonstrate what they know. This lack of credential precludes them from obtaining better jobs. There is a need for a competency-based certificate program that would assist this group to move into jobs in the ICT and related sectors.
This new community based/social business will address these needs and opportunities.
Current computers at the cafe will be upgraded
The primary cost of equipment will be versatile single-board computers. To save money, they will connect to the current hardware in the cyber cafe and will run Linux. A list of the current cyber cafe's inventory can be found on Google Drive.
All supplies and equipment to be purchased include:
- 10 Arduino or Kano computer board starter kits as they are among the cheapest computers in the world (in terms of both immediate and long-term cost) and come with accessories. They will be purchased in the U.S. and shipped to Cameroon. $75-100 each. ($750-$1000 + $150 estimated shipping = $900-$1150)
- Accessories to upgrade the current HP Compaq dc7100 desktop computers so that users will have the best experience with Peppermint OS ($400)
- Indiegogo & PayPal fees ($350-$600)
- Fulfillment of perks ($400)
Other materials that can be obtained free of cost:
- Peppermint Linux open source software for the desktop OS as to avoid license conflicts
- Offline educational content
- Current electricity installations and network cabling in the building
If the fundraising goal is exceeded, all funds will go toward the purchase of extra computer boards.
Remember, every dollar counts - it's about your donation - not the amount given!
If the fundraising goals are not met, what funds are raised will be put toward the purchase of the physical space for the cyber learning center.
Not just any cyber cafe
The aim of the project is to create both a physical center and a virtual network that will accommodate Cameroonians who are hungry to learn new skills and become involved the global ICT world. Primary goals are to permit them to be competitive in the job market and to improve their community's quality of life.The business will be a social space with excellent training and support. Stephan and other skilled professionals will serve as mentors; innovative sessions and workshops will be common. Furthermore, the learning center will be always changing and growing as to adapt with the community's needs.
Children intently gather around a computer to learn
How the center will scale
At least two paid staff and unpaid volunteers will help monitor users and will help with instruction accordingly.
Stephan expects to have local support from at least one organization whose aim is to promote small business. Partnerships with schools, universities, and social programs will attract additional users. These affiliations will also help cement the center as a trusted community resource.
Stephan is passionate about impact sourcing - bringing internet-based jobs to disadvantaged communities. Impact sourcing has the potential to fight poverty in developing countries. Visit ImpactHub for more information on this dynamic concept.
Tim, the host of this campaign, started the website oAfrica in 2009 to raise awareness of African internet progress. He and Stephan have known each other for three years and both share the same vision of helping underserved African communities fulfill their potential.
Lynn, a valuable contributor to this campaign, is an occupational therapist based in Toronto and in Bamenda. She is a former Chair of the Board of Bamenda Coordinating Centre for Studies in Disability and Rehabilitation. She shares Stephan's goal of making communication, participation, and technology more accessible and inclusive.
We welcome individuals that want to collaborate to build skills of the community. Please visit our page on oAfrica to learn more ways to give.