My involvement with African Data Initiative

African Data Initiative is a project by a young NGO called African Maths Initiative (AMI). AMI is Kenyan NGO formed by mathematicians and mathematics educators who are working to create a stronger mathematical community and culture of mathematics across Africa through fun ways of doing Maths.

Having the African Data Initiative project, which is an open source project to create a new easy to use statistical software, it was necessary to do a campaign to create awareness and get a community of supporters for this project. This was done through crowdfunding, crowdsourcing and also through many other channels including doing presentations, spreading the word on social media, and also through friends to tell a neighbors and other people in their networks.

We had conducted the campaign for 90 days and it proved very difficult to make people understand the need for this software. We actually had gotten a good number of supporters during the time we had the campaign running though not as many as we had anticipated. Recently, after my longest and toughest journey, John Lunalo and I had a chance to present the ideas of AMI and the African Data Initiative students, tutors and lecturers at the African Institute of Mathematical sciences in Bagamoyo Tanzania. Surprisingly enough, people were really impressed by the project and so far we have received more than 50 supporters from that presentation. It was really amazing.

More to that, over this week, we have managed to start the actual development of the statistical package, with many decisions being made and the timeline being set. I am happy to be part of the development team for this software with the role of designing and development of user interfaces. It doesn’t come easy, it’s a challenge everyday with lots of learning but the motivation of carrying on is the potential that this software has in changing the understanding, teaching and learning of statistics across Africa and the rest of the world.  We believe that in one years’ time, we will have the full release of this software.

My Longest and toughest journey I ever had

Among my major interests is travelling. I have traveled far and wide but this was an extreme travelling.

Recently, we were scheduled to leave Maseno in western Kenya for Bagamoyo, a small town in eastern Tanzania, a distance of about 1,188 Kms to go and meet up with other African Data Initiative developers at AIMS Tanzania. This started as an excitement, having thought it would be a fun travel all the way and having the great passion to develop this life changing software.

We left Maseno at around 20:30hrs on Wednesday the 7th October 2015 for Nairobi. This is an eight hour journey by bus which we are all used to and it just another piece of cake. With less than 2hours of rest, we took the Dar express at 06:15hrs the following day and headed towards Dar es Salaam. It was anticipated we would arrive at Dar es Salaam at around 22:00 hrs. the same day.

Happy and excited, we left the capital and headed for the Kenya-Tanzania border which was just a two hour drive. We handled the normal immigration bureaucracy and proceeded with our journey.

Getting to Tanzania, a large vast land of dry area was what met the eye for more than twelve hours of travel. It was not interesting at all. We traveled the whole day with less than an hour of rest and safely arrived at Dar at 21:30hrs. We were extremely tired and a thought of boarding a taxi to Bagamoyo for another one hour was not happily welcomed. This is due the accumulated exhaustion for more than 25 hours journey. The “short” trip to Bagamoyo from Dar was rather quiet, no one spoke to each other till we got to the hotel. Everyone was tired sleepy and nothing seemed interesting. Hurriedly, after checking in the hotel, i took a shower and slept.

After such a long, tiring and exhausting journey, we had to leave hotel by 10:00 hrs the next on day, for AIMS for work: initial meet up with the AIMS development team. Sadly, the only lady in the team fell ill and was rushed to hospital. The rest of us had to meet and discuss progress of African Data Initiative Project. We met on Saturday again and unfortunately, I fell sick and had to seek medical attention. I'm happy we are both well now and working hard on the African Data Initiative. Thanks to everyone who donated for the success of this life changing project.

This was the longest journey and the toughest I ever had. All the same I'm happy to have experienced this since it's my sacrifice to facilitate development of Africa by better understanding of data through making this new statistical software which will help in making statistics easier. I don’t regret it but I would love to travel back differently.

The trending digital era for kids

Technology development and advancement has for long not considered the fact that there is always a group of next techies. The kids. For long enough, the kids generation- “Generation next”- has always met the computing technologies either in High schools or the universities. This led to a gap in the society since every programmer wanted to develop the complex and sophisticated Information systems and software forgetting the easy and fun things they could develop to help kids have fun.

it takes a kid a small either mobile app that says meow or a website that has animations of different cartoons to have fun and enjoy. This is one way that kids are getting involved with current trending digital era.Developing for kids is one thing that has now hit the market of kid games and apps. This is because it doesn’t take too much programming knowledge to develop cool kids apps. There exists soft wares that help in design and building of amazing apps without writing a thousand and one lines of code. One such tool is Construct2.

Construct2 is a simplified development environment that enable you create nice games within a short time as compared to other programming languages. Game apps developed in Construct2 could be ported to different platforms including Android and web based platforms. Further, to enable you build for even much more platforms, it’s really possible to import construct2 files to the amazing Intel IDE called Intel XDK which enables you build HTML5 code to multiple platforms. This is done online through their dedicated build servers.

Now that this kind of development is possible, it’s been shown time and time again that this could be used to develop fun learning apps which improve the thinking capacity of a kid. This goes a long way in creating the “unfindable jobs” as well taking technology in the next level. This in turn leads to a countries development since it banks on both the kids and the current developers.

More to this, there has been a need to introduce kids to programming, so that they could be able to create and develop all their imaginations to reality. This has been made possible by use of other even simpler development environments which enable kids understand logic and come up with amazing creations of their own. One of the most popular of these is Scratch, which was developed in MIT.

It is evident that this field that relate to kids and tech is gradually taking shape in Africa. Personally, I have taken the initiative to teach kids programming using these tools. Starting from Maseno Maths Camp 2015, where I delivered programming sessions on scratch, I am on the frontline in support of sharing this content to other people who will in turn I believe, teach others. Having this chain of sharing knowledge, I am confident and really certain that in a couple of years we will have the type of computer gurus we always want.

A simple advice for fellow programmers out there, next time you think of developing software, take time and think about the potential that exists in developing for kids.