“When I took office, only high energy physicists had ever heard of what is called the Worldwide Wed…Now even my cat has its own page.”
President Bill Clinton, in his 1996 announcement of the Next Generation Internet initiative
When I think of some of my best life-changing events and people or things, the internet tops the list. I am a writer and editor. I write science fiction. Professionally, I engage in digitization of content, think of genealogy records, Australian convict ship, immigration records in USA, marriage and will records in Dublin-Ireland, Grave data and much more. A typical work day entails decoding handwriting records dating up to 300 years ago. Since I am fantasy film-science fiction fanatic at some point I imagine someone deep into the distant future tracing my work and thoughts and being glad that I helped in the digital transition.
I essentially make use of Google Maps to get the correct places since our company believes and actualizes 99.95% accuracy in presentation. I use You Tube to learn Paleography and ancient handwriting from tutorials and the Google Voice Search service to do some searching on my android Smartphone whenever my production manager sends in some work when am on the way.
One of the companies I serve is ancestry.com, a company based in Provo, Utah, United States. It is the largest for-profit genealogy company in the world, according to Wikipedia. It provides access to approximately 11 billion records, 40 million family trees and has 2 million paying subscribers. I am not alone. Some of my colleagues do German and Arabic content digitization.
I am also glad to be doing a content digitization job akin to the Google Cultural Institute, ‘which is an effort to make important cultural material available and accessible to everyone and to digitally preserve it to educate and inspire future generations.’As of 2011, the project developed 42 exhibitions for the online archive and people can search for six million photographs, documents, texts and films.
“This is a present from a small, distant world, a token of our sounds, our science, our images, our thoughts, and our feelings. We are attempting to survive out time so we may live into yours.’
-U.S. president, Jimmy Carter
If the letter above, which is aboard the spacecraft Voyager 1 which is now cruising through the interstellar space wasn’t digitized, I wouldn’t have gotten it into my Smartphone. Probably into the distant future, someone will get curious and decide to track the spacecraft even though it will have stopped producing electromagnetic communication. This will be the ultimate man’s biggest breakthrough. Finding other forms of life in the universe.
Talking of digitization, our country is taking the technological advancements seriously with plans to digitize the entire school curriculum by 2015. Our company is sure to handle such projects, having worked with The Kenya National Library, Bright Solid, International Finance Corporation, Stanford University, Reader’s Digest, Boeing, and Ciscoamong other digitization projects.
“Introduction of technology in our schools will provide an opportunity for our learners to compete with the world’s best,” Ms. Lydia Nzomo, Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development. The fact that students are encouraged to take a digital path in their education provides an exciting, inspiring avenue to exploit their imagination since the internet is a source of unlimited information.
Google Kenya has various products for education which include the Doodle 4 Google art contest, which was won by Esther Wamai Githinji, a 17 year old Grade 13 student of Shree Cutchi Leva Patel Samaj School. It also offers other interesting, life changing programs like:
-Maker Camp for Google+
-Google Computer Science Summer Institute
-Google Science Fair
-Google Student Ambassador Program
-Google Online Marketing Challenge
-Google Business Bootcamp (Japan)
-Google Journalism Fellowship
Going back, the turning point of my life came when, after finishing my high school at the age of 17 in 2011, I unfortunately did not meet the required grades to join university. I bumped into a newspaper page that highlighted on the company that I am currently working for, which is Digital Divide Data-Kenya, a BPO/ITeS non-for-profit notable for winning the Google Kenya Innovation Award 2013 as well as a CIO 100 award for the life-changing mode it has (giving young, capable but disadvantaged youth a living and education.)
It has been applauded by Kenya’s ICT Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiangi who visited us on October 2nd 2013. On 4th October he announced during a press meeting that Intel Corporation had sponsored two Kenyan tech start ups, Harmonics and mHealth Solutions Centre, to travel to Silicon Valley for three days of onsite training and a Demo day with angel and venture capital investments.
After high school, I wasn’t sure of what to do next. I did not want to get trapped in a pit of irresponsible behavior in my neighborhood. Being the inquisitive person I am, I Googled the profile of the company, its model and mode of recruitment, rewards to employees, qualifications and other aspects. I then applied for the job. I used to walk up to 20 kilometers to have access to the internet. But now, thanks to the newly invented Project Loon, I know that internet access will be much easier especially here in Africa. By that time, I lived in Naivasha town with my parents who have been struggling to support our education due to the miniature salary at the flower farms. I had to go for the interviews early morning to Nairobi and then return to Naivasha in the evening. It was the most demanding time in my life. The HR did not actually know the distance I had to come for the interviews. After a rigorous training that entailed typing and placement tests I got enrolled on September 5th 2012.
These days, I am glad to say that I am versed with knowledge on Google’s Futurism Projects headed by Ray Kurzweil who heralds the singularity concept, I engage in change-making forums and content writing…for instance I have been nominated for the 2013 NUHA Foundation Global Blogging Prize on my article inspired by the quote “An investment in education pays the best interest.” (Aristotle, 384 BC-322BC)It is available online at www.goo.gl/SJUxtF. I first got published on the internet when I was 16 back in 2010. It was during the ‘reading revolution’ campaign, targeted to set a Guinness world record of the most people reading at a single location simultaneously.
It was a precursor to the Hay Festival, among whose sponsors were The Telegraph, Google, Oxfam, BBC Radio 3, Cardiff University, Amnesty International and British Council.It has encouraged me to create a blog at http://www.momanyiharun.wordpress.com where I post informative articles on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), inspirational articles on role models. This has earned me a several accolades which give me the incentive to work harder to be a change in the community, in bridging the digital divide by heralding digital literacy. Digital Literacy, as defined in Nokia’s Smarter Everyday: Mobile Mastery handbook is the ability to find, summarize, evaluate and create information using digital technology.
Here are some of the accolades to my work.
-Virgin Mobile Canada Team
I followed the One Young World South Africa Summit and learnt a lot. Just by a simple search. I got inspired by ‘Voices’, a short story by Canadian writer Alice Munro, that saw her win the 2013 Nobel Prize for Literature. I also got certified by UNESCO and Goi Peace Foundation-Japan having participated in their 2013 essay writing contest on the role of culture in development. This week, I got notified on me Gmail account that the winner was from Rwanda, having written about how the genocide changed his life. Earlier this year, I did a well researched sci-fi story inspired by ‘Hope Beyond Hype’, a medical comic book by optistem.org, a stem cell research program at the University of Edinburgh. I got support a lot of people including my mentor Hooman Samani, a robotics researcher, engineer and assistant professor at the National Taipei University.
Having gotten my work in the digital publishing realm, a chance to better my life through education, I plan to complete my BSc. Tourism Management degree at Kenyatta University which I am also studying for through e-Learning. I plan to continue engaging my fellow youth on the need to take on the future by training in the relevant fields. I plan to talk to companies to help bridge the digital divide in our country. Learning to navigate the internet, use a Smartphone or a computer is crucial for success in this 21st century. I can testify that the three years I have been actively using the internet, I have learnt so much more than ever before in my entire life.
‘I’d like to advocate for computer coding to be an institution in the public school systems right next to Biology, Chemistry, Physics etc…”
-Ashton Kutcher, Actor (Guardian, Just Married), Producer, Fashion Model who recently played Apple co-founder Steve Jobs in the film Jobs and has been listed by PC maker Lenovo as its latest ‘product engineer.’
I really would like to thank the former Permanent Secretary, Ministry of ICT for his passion in making the country a better place to communicate by helping revolutionize the ICT landscape. With help of the world of knowledge of the internet, it is now easier to learn how to code, essentially how to create a program. This has seen various achievements of iHub, Nairobi’s tech community.
The iHub has been visited by industry luminaries such as Marissa Mayer, the President of Yahoo, and Stephen Elop, the chief executive of Nokia. Working with the internet has really changed the way I look at life; there are a billion spontaneous opportunities every second that passes by only that we can only do one thing at a time.The British Council has partnered with Microsoft and Bharti Airtel to improve educational opportunities and digital access to millions of teachers and learners on 18 digital hubs in Kenya. Tech companies, through the ‘Hour of Code’ initiative by code.org are coming together to support STEM education. Broadband access will be a core part in the project. The internet is a crucial part in learning in this digital era.
As I was on the Facebook on Tuesday 29th Oct 2013, I bumped into a post by East Africa Destination Magazine that “In 2000, The Economist declared that Africa was a ‘hopeless continent’” because of corruption, inefficiency and poverty. The situation is however changing rapidly since five of the ten fastest-growing economies are in Africa. Multinationals have identified Africa as the new frontier.
With regards to my passion in education, I would love to urge my fellow youth to revisit their goals and start seeing the internet as the untapped gold mine that they have been looking for. Whether it is a technology start-up, banking online, meet-ups (for example Google Hangouts, meetup.com), blogging, seeking project funding, advertising for their SMEs, the internet is the home for digital investment.
By Harun Momanyi,
BSc. Tourism Undergraduate, Kenyatta University,
Author, Colors Literary portrait (free): www.hoomansamani.com/colors