Guest post by Elizabeth Kiragu Wanjugu and Tobias Schonwetter
As we were busy getting ready for our community Global Summit a few weeks ago, we nearly missed the announcement of another very important addition to that community – our new CC Kenya affiliate.
Our new Kenyan team is based around two Nairobi-based affiliate institutions: Strathmore University‘s Centre for Intellectual Property and Information Technology (CIPIT) and the National Council for Law Reports (NCLR). CIPIT – led by Dr. Isaac Rutenberg – is Kenya’s Public Lead, while the NCLR – led by Michael Murungi – serves as CC Kenya’s Legal Lead institution.
The Kenyan team is supported by a large existing CC community in the country, which has been active for quite some time. Unsurprisingly, therefore, a number of projects and activities are already under way. The NCLR’s Kenya Law Report already uses CC’s Public Domain Mark for its content, the team has been a major contributor to bringing the School of Open to the region, and there is an exciting initiative to translate some of CC’s licence tools into Kiswahili. According to the new team, Kenya’s thriving cultural industry requires access to shareable resources that facilitate remixing, and CC Kenya also strives to support newly realisable democratic freedoms by enabling widespread access to knowledge and information. CC Kenya makes East Africa now one of the most active regions for CC in Africa with affiliate teams in Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya.
One of the first major activities of the new team, even before they had formally launched, was Kenya’s inaugural Creative Commons Salon. Held on 6 June, 2013 at Nairobi’s iHub and themed, “using technology as a democratizing tool, especially one that will level the playing field for education and opportunity in Kenya,” the event drew approximately 50 participants from different backgrounds.
Organised by Akili Dada in partnership with newly established team, the Center for Intellectual Property and Information Technology (CIPIT) and Jamlab.
Akili Dada is a leadership incubator investing in high-achieving young African women from underprivileged backgrounds who are passionate about social change. CIPIT is CC Kenya’s Public Lead while Jamlab drives the School of Open in Kenya.
In her opening remarks Allison Domicone, Akili Dada’s Director of Development (and who incidentally ran CC Salons from late 2008 through early 2011 and helped grow them significantly while working with Creative Commons in San Francisco, California) welcomed the attendees then asked Alex Gakuru, Creative Commons Africa Regional Coordinator, to say a few words.
Expressing optimism for continued growth, Alex reflected on the positive reception thus far accorded to Creative Commons in Kenya and across Africa.
The panelists comprised Michael Muringi, CEO/Editor National Council for Law Reports; CC Kenya Legal Lead, Judith Owigar, President of Akirachix; Paul Kihwelo, Public Lead of Creative Commons Tanzania; and Simeon Oriko, Co-Founder of Jamlab. Akili Dada founder Wanjiru Kamau Rutenberg moderated the session.
Discussions on how technology can be harnessed as democratizing tool delved into how it can be made more accessible to all people with a special attention to girls and women given local statistics that they constitute only 15 percent of a technology field dominated by men. Discussion around access was extended to include access to online resources, empowering instruments and digital tools such as the mobile phone.
Discussants established among major barriers to access included: Inequitable financial access; Lack of knowledge; Absent or unpredictable electricity; Resultant societal stereotyping; to name but just a few. Probing, “What exactly is a level playing field?” was asked at the question session, with panelists responding as follows:
Jamlab – “A level playing field enables a person to achieve goals that s/he has set for own self.”
Creative Commons Tanzania – “A level playing field is where a person can have a balance between retaining ownership and encouraging open access to shared creative works.”
National Council for Law Reporting – “A level playing field is where any citizen gains access to justice without having to relying on costly representation through legal intermediaries.”
Akirachix – “A level playing field is where information is provided to enable girls to make informed career choices.”
Noted challenges included socialization in technology that favoured men over women, parents preferring to take the girl child to secretarial colleges to study languages and at best computer packages rather than encouraging them to venture into computer programming/coding and website development.
“Fortunately, the challenge is slowly being conquered by educating parents on importance of technology to the economy,” said Judith Owigar.
In Tanzania, librarians are championing the cause of Open Educational Resources (OER) due to their background and understanding of the importance of equitable access to knowledge.
Thereafter, the moderator invited audience participation with a reaction that children between 3 and 7 years were most impressionable urging stakeholders to focus their girlhood education and empowerment efforts on that age group.
Responding, Simeon Oriko said at that age the children were best under their parents care learning everything from parents. Jamlab chose to target high school students where youth peer influence, including what they see on social media, have the most impact on their adult character.
Professor Suki Mwendwa cautioned that technology, per se, should not be viewed as the solution to all access problems:
“Reading should be encouraged and technology used as a tool to increase access to knowledge. Technology having a seductive nature should also be regulated at home so that the children can be well rounded.”
The event ended with the moderator narrating inspiring stories of successful women providing role models for the younger generation — and encouraging others to do the same. She called upon more women to step forward to rally behind a solid community of mentors to change the world as we know it today.
It was a very informative interaction and well acknowledged. The audience later engaged and networked while enjoying the refreshments and food courtesy of NCLR sponsorship.
I thank Akili Dada, Creative Commons, Akirachix and Jamlab for taking the time to collect and relay information on matters of access and also women in technology. We look forward to the next CC Salon, perhaps in Tanzania, considering that CC Tanzania expressed their interest in replicating the event back home.
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Correction: The original article incorrectly listed Kenya’s Salon as the first CC Salon held in Sub-Sahara Africa. The first was actually held in Johannesburg, South Africa, in August 2006.
Some important changes are taking place in CC’s Regional Project Manager (RPM) team, the group responsible for coordinating and supporting our worldwide affiliate network. Two of our RPMs – Chiaki Hayashi, RPM for the Asia-Pacific, and Aurelia J. Schultz, RPM for Africa – will be transitioning out of their current roles to new positions in the CC community.
This makes way for two new RPM candidates to join our team.
Chiaki and Aurelia have both worked with CC for many years, and have long provided support for our Asian and African communities. When the RPM positions were created last year, they were the logical choices to begin the roles for the Asia-Pacific and Africa. However, with activity in both regions growing rapidly, they each feel they can no longer devote the time to their RPM duties that the community deserves, and so are choosing to step down. Aurelia will spend more time on her existing position in CC HQ’s legal team, while Chiaki will continue to work with us as a volunteer Culture and GLAM Special Project Coordinator.
This transition provides an exciting opportunity for two new people to step into the RPM roles for the Asia-Pacific and Africa. You can find the full position descriptions here, but in summary, each position aims to “assist Creative Commons… with organizational planning, strategic communications, community building, and fundraising in… support of the organization’s mission, goals and objectives” in the respective region. Essentially, this amounts to supporting our local affiliates to promote use and knowledge of CC, coordinating regional activities and communications, and facilitating collaboration between affiliates and the broader international community.
So if you have an interest in community management, open access and Creative Commons, and have ties to Africa or the Asia-Pacific, we’d love to hear from you.No Comments »
As students around the world return to school, ccLearn blogs about the evolving education landscape, ongoing projects to improve educational resources, education technology, and the future of education. Browse the “Back to School” tag for more posts in this series.
In the United States, the turn from August into September means new pencils, books and backpacks as the nation’s students start a new school year. In other parts of the world, students are returning from semester breaks or going on with classes as usual. And in some cases, with almost no books, let alone new ones.
This is far too often the case in many African schools. Teachers face not only a lack of student materials, but also a lack of access to teaching resources. For years generous donors have attempted to address this problem by supplying schools copies of textbooks, desks and other equipment. Helpful in many ways, but merely giving supplies doesn’t alleviate some of the biggest problems. Take the text books for example.
In many countries, the required text books are outdated. Governments cannot afford newer books, so without a market, new books don’t get written. Sometimes newer books might exist, but only in one language. For a country attempting to teach primary school in several native languages, this presents a huge problem, especially when considering the copyright restrictions on translating a work. The same situations exist for teaching materials as well as text books.
Enter open educational resources, or OER.
OER are materials, tools, and media used for teaching and learning that are free from copyright restrictions or publicly licensed for anyone to use, adapt, and redistribute. And several organizations around the continent are using OER to address the specific challenges surrounding access to teaching materials:
In South Africa, a new project of the Shuttleworth Foundation is helping South African primary and secondary school teachers share their resources. The aim of Siyavula (pronounced see-ah-hoo-la) is to ensure that South Africa has a complete OER curriculum for all primary and secondary grades. The project was designed with the new South African school curriculum in mind, which requires teachers to develop more of their own content. Some teachers formed small groups to adapt to the new South African curriculum requirements, sharing their developments with their groups and offering each other support. Siyavula is building upon this model, helping new groups to form and offering workshops on developing, finding and sharing resources.
The Siyavula system includes a large repository of curriculum, currently complete from grades R (like the US’s kindergarten) through 9 in both English and Afrikaans. One great part of the Siyavula system is that as teachers develop and adapt materials, they submit them back into the Siyavula system where the materials are reviewed by curriculum advisers. This ensures the OER materials always meet the country’s education standards. Because OER are, well, open, there are no restrictions on translating works like there are on materials under full copyright. This has allowed Siyavula users to translate much of the material into Xhosa. Ideally other languages will follow.
While Siyavula is tackling primary and secondary education, another organization is focusing on higher education across Africa. OER Africa is currently active in several countries across the continent. Through partnerships with various universities in Africa and elsewhere, OER Africa helps facilitate the sharing of resources between universities and training schools. This program is particularly exciting because it has African universities sharing with each other, instead of just receiving materials from the United States or Europe. Additionally, in the instances where African universities and outside universities are partnered together, the relationship really is mutually beneficial.
One example of the mutual beneficial relationships in OER Africa was explained by Project Director Catherine Ngugi during the Open Education 2009 conference keynote address. Collaboration between the University of Michigan and Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in the Health OER program has given students at KNUST access to materials that help them study common medical issues and has given students at Michigan resources about infectious diseases to which they otherwise would not have had access. (As someone who has had to worry about doctors in the US not knowing enough about tropical medicine, this exchange makes me really happy.) KNUST and Michigan also share and receive information with schools in Ghana and South Africa.
OER does more than just supply teachers with educational materials. It helps them customize their curriculum to their own needs, their own locations and their own students. Organizations like Siyavula and ORE Africa are helping to change the face of education on the continent, for the better. Creative Commons is proud that its licenses help make that possible.1 Comment »
PALM Africa, an African CC-based publishing project, just released their first open-access book from AIDS specialist Peter Mugyenyi titled, Genocide by Denial: How profiteering from HIV/AIDS killed millions. The book is being released under a CC BY-NC-ND license making it free to download and share. PALM is using the release to test the impact open access initiatives have on book sales but, as noted by Eve Gray, there is another reason this license choice is so important (emphasis added):
The timing is impeccable, as the release of the open access version of the book coincides exactly with a breakthrough at the World Health Organisation, which has finally reached agreement on a global strategy and plan of action on public health, innovation and intellectual property [...] Among the recommendations in the WHO plan of action is government intervention to ensure voluntary sharing or research, open access publication repositories and open databases and compound libraries of medical research results. Thus Fountain’s engagement with open access publishing on a public health topic is right in line with – and ahead of – developing global policy.
PALM and Mugyenyi’s license choice thus becomes a practice in the very lessons they are attempting to teach. Beyond this, Gray argues that “Mugyenyi’s book needs to be read by the South African bureaucrats who are trying to enforce widespread and rigid commercialization of public research”, a task that while difficult, is made easier due to the free sharing encouraged by their license choice.1 Comment »