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It's tough out there everywhere for NGOs and charities to get help with their technology. NetSquared is TechSoup's answer to providing local tech support and learning opportunities.
Uganda is no different except for one thing: its amazing NetSquared Regional Ambassador for East Africa, Robert Kibaya. For his day job, Robert runs Communications without Borders and the NGO Kikandwa Rural Communities Development Organization. As an unpaid volunteer, he organizes NetSquared in-person events where people from NGOs from all over the region come to talk shop and help each other.
NetSquared is TechSoup's volunteer-driven global network of nonprofit technology workshops and networking events. Our dream is to provide peer-led, in-person tech support for nonprofits in every community. Robert Kibaya is our veteran volunteer in Uganda, where he helped found and supports five NetSquared groups.
Volunteers like Robert are indispensable if TechSoup is to achieve our goal of enabling civil society organizations and changemakers around the world to gain effective access to the resources they need to design and implement technology solutions for a more equitable planet. Here's Robert's story, in his own words.
My wife Florence and our four-month old son, Jotham, live in Mukono, Uganda near Lake Victoria. Since I was brought up in a rural setting, I always engage in activities aiming at empowering rural community people. My organization, Kikandwa Rural Communities Development Organization, is devoted to humanitarian work.
We help the elderly with basic needs. Here in Uganda and Africa in general, governments do not provide for elderly people. We also help poor children and poor schools. We help schools get things like concrete rainwater harvesting tanks. We help children with school fees, computer training, and many other things.
My biggest task here in Uganda has been to reach out to others and bring them on board to enjoy the benefits of being part of the TechSoup network. Recently we collaborated with TechSoup and Microsoft on a workshop on getting and using Microsoft Office 365 for Nonprofits.
NGOs have many needs here.
Most of the civil society organizations in East Africa who attend our NetSquared events run activities in rural communities where access to computer services is a big challenge. Most of them do incredible work, but unfortunately, they are not visible online because they have no websites and very few manage to have a presence on social media platforms such as Facebook. They run on very minimal budgets, and it is hard for most of them to implement their proposed work plans.
The people from civil society organizations who come to our events are from various networks, which include the Mukono District NGO Forum. This has a membership of more than 250 organizations. We have people who come from NGOs such as the Cape of Good Hope. They want help to develop their website. Happy Child International is another NGO that needs a website. We also have individuals who are not attached to an NGO. These include youths from universities, secondary schools, and community members.
Sincerely speaking, NetSquared does not pay me any salary, but this is what really drives me to volunteer despite the fact that I am in a developing country:
Whenever an opportunity appears, we as the NetSquared organizers are invited to take up such opportunities. For example, the grant-funded Office 365 opportunity, believe me, makes each one of us here happy. Also, when TechSoup became truly global, again we the organizers were among the very first groups notified.
Also, we have discovered that branding ourselves as NetSquared is of great importance when it comes to finding out about opportunities worldwide.
Also, whenever we request for support from Eli van der Giessen, it is always provided. This makes us motivated.
I have a great interest in technology, and digital communications is one of my main day-to-day activities. Joining NetSquared was not a mistake for me. I looked into a number of opportunities the network could bring into my life and the communities we serve.
Another thing are the events worldwide that drive us. In my case, NetSquared sponsored me to attend and participate in the 2015 Nonprofit Technology Conference in Texas. At events like this, we make new connections with people from all over the world to learn new skills and exchange ideas.
The most important aspect of NetSquared for me is making a family of tech-practicing individuals from all corners of the world who are able to accept each other without any discrimination based on color or disability, and are able to work together as a team of experts.
Image 1: Eright / CC BY-SA / text added
Images 2 and 5: Robert Kibaya
Image 3: Ezeu / CC BY-SA
Image 4: Elijah van der Giessen / CC BY-NC
Image 6: NetSquared
This is interesting. Do you know of this work in Tanzania? We are Lord Tabernacle Ministry, near Mikayuni , Tanga Province. http://www.ltmtnz.org
Lord Tabernacle Ministry
There is a chapter of NetSquared in Tanga, Tanzania: www.meetup.com/NetSquared-Tanzania
Another great resource for getting tech help in Uganda - and empowering women regarding computer and network tech - is Women of Uganda Network (WOUGNET) http://wougnet.org/
"WOUGNET’s mission is to promote and support the use of ICTs by women and women organisations in Uganda, so that they can take advantage of the opportunities presented by ICTs in order to effectively address national and local problems of sustainable development."