History

Baraton Information Technology Students Association (BITSA)

The idea behind Jamlab stemmed off a series of ICT Literacy workshops initially run by members of Baraton Information Technology Students Association (BITSA), a University club made up of students from the Information Systems and Computing department at the University of Eastern Africa, Baraton. The first of these was held on Friday, May 29, 2009. (More on ICT Literacy drives documented here.)

One of the Jamlab co-founders, Simeon Oriko, was at the time a Business Information Technology Major at the institution and the leader of BITSA. As part of the club activities, BITSA organized and ran ICT Literacy workshops in a number of high schools that surround the university. Members of the club participated either by providing logistical support or preparing and making workshop presentations.

The high school digital literacy camps were a great success and continue to this day under the current BITSA Club leadership. Simeon, who initiated these workshops, has won major accolades for the same including the 2012 Google Zeitgeist Young Mind Award and the 2013 SXSW Dewey Winburne Community Service Award.

The Kuyu Project

Word of our work with the literacy workshops had spread around quite a bit. One of the people who heard about it and was impressed by it was Deborah Elzie. Deb reached out with advice on how to grow the initiative beyond the University of Eastern Africa, Baraton and also introduced me to Victor Miclovich who was keen on the progress as well. In 2010 we teamed up and launched The Kuyu Project. (The interesting story about these guys is that I worked with them for 2 years before we met each other in person).

The focus of The Kuyu Project was on running digital literacy camps in high schools around Africa aimed at helping the students understand and appreciate the value of digital technology and the opportunities it accords them to achieve their personal goals as well as societal objectives.

A Digital Camp run by The Kuyu Project in Nsambya Kampala, 2nd March 2012
A Digital Camp run by The Kuyu Project in Nsambya Kampala, 2nd March 2012

In the years that followed, we organized and ran digital camps with different partners and volunteers in Kenya, Uganda and Ghana.

One of the volunteers we worked with was Kasyoka Mutunga. Kas interned at The Kuyu Project after she finished high school in 2011. A great deal of her internship was spent building a curriculum for our digital camps and building a community around it. One of the more dedicated and influential members of this community was Jane Muli.

Jamlab

Simeon, Jane and Kas grew close and interacted quite a bit, often participating in community events, peer to peer mentorship sessions and social events together.

Hanging out with kids from Baba Dogo Primary School in Nairobi during a mentorship event organized by AZMA - a community service group.
Hanging out with kids from Baba Dogo Primary School in Nairobi during a mentorship event organized by AZMA – a community service group.

Most of our interactions were with high school students and/or graduates who had amazing ideas and potential to create awesome things and have a positive impact on people’s lives. We discussed at lengths the amazing projects, talents, ideas we had been exposed to but lamented heavily about the lack of support for them.

It is on this premise that Jamlab was formed. We weren’t going to wait for the support. We were to going to create and provide it.

The essence of Jamlab is to provide a supportive community, resources and environment for high school students and graduates and to enable them to be all they can be!