Every year, the Digital Opportunity Trust (DOT) hosts the Unconference – a participant-led event that convenes young social innovators hailing from several of the organization’s network countries. The Unconference grants youths the opportunity to connect with professionals, mentors, and one another, bringing over 100 individuals from several countries to share their innovation experiences. From Africa, the Middle East, Latin America, and Indigenous Canada, DOT works with governments, the private sector and community-based organizations to support youth striving to transform their societies as social innovators, digital ambassadors, and leaders.
This year, the conference was held in Nairobi, Kenya and centered around the theme of inclusivity – specifically, closing the gender gap in technology. The first morning plenary session was opened by DOT CEO and founder, Janet Longmore, who spoke on the rise of social entrepreneurship, innovation and business. “Think about how you can contribute in the world of humanity, because the challenge we face cannot be solved with one or two individuals,” Longmore said. “A way to truly create an inclusive world is through passion, skill, and talent of social innovators.”
And passionate, talented social innovators we met! DIAL had the privilege to learn about several individuals and their journeys to create and apply digital solutions to achieve positive social change in their communities. For example, Emmanuel Chatina has developed a social enterprise that leverages mobile phones to offer remote healthcare to those who would otherwise not have ready access to health providers.
Others are addressing the invisible form of health and seek to destigmatize dialogue surrounding it. Eunice Njeghe, Angela Mumbi, Walder Amani, and Latifa Noor promote mental health and connect individuals in Kenya to mental health providers through their mobile application, PsychBeing, while Yvonne Osagie from Ottawa is currently developing an online platform devoted to education, support, and prevention of sexual abuse on college campuses.
And digital technologies are not only being used, but taught: in addition to training young girls and women in the latest technologies, Ivy Barley, co-founder of Developers in Vogue, helps them navigate the tech space and connects them to real-time projects and jobs, doing her part in closing the gender divide in tech.
As we learned about the different ways in which digital technology extends social services to traditionally underserved communities across multiple geographies and sectors, we also had the opportunity to introduce many of the participants to the Digital Principles and share how the Principles can help guide their work and achieve sustainability. Participants who attended our Digital Principles session shared the challenges they face when implementing their solutions, the resources they wish they had available, and how they believed the Principles could be helpful in addressing these issues. Many insights shared by participants showcased common problems in the ICT sector and demonstrated how it is never too early to begin putting the Principles into practice.
The Unconference was an incredibly powerful and inspiring experience; we look forward to having DOT youths’ voices join and help shape the future of the Digital Principles as they continue to develop into tomorrow’s innovators and leaders bringing digital solutions to global communities.