Reflections MozFest EA 2015

After a great experience at MozFest London in 2013, we set out on an exhilarating, but challenging  journey to bring MozFest to East Africa. We did this for various reasons such as;

  1. Not every one could come to London to experience MozFest. Its extremely costly, the visas are challenging and slots for participants are limited, so – Not everyone can be there.
  2. MozFest is a platform for learning, sharing, and co-creating, and celebrating the works of innovators. A place where we are inspired to think disruptively and are reminded of the potential of the web, and ourselves as individual. This is something we find very important yet lacking in our communities in Africa. From the onset, our educational systems and societies provide a sufficient environment for innovation to thrive.
  3. East Africa had key challenges that we believe collective efforts at MozFest would help us solve – see http://goo.gl/tDdIIH for more on this.

So with the support of Mozilla we held our first Mozilla Festival in 2014. Over 300 participants joined us to celebrate learn and make cool stuff on web. We were persuaded that MozFest has a roll to play in the growth  of technology, innovation and internet in East Africa and we would continue to ship MozFestEA.

In 2015, this persuasion has been reaffirmed by the doubling of the size of MozFestEA with over 800 participants. Various partners such as Victoria University, Vodafone Uganda, Pepsi Cola, TTC Mobile and the New Vision came in to support the festival. An amazing team of volunteers from accross the globe worked tirelessly to ensure the success of the event.

As lead of the organizing team, I was particularly inspired by the commitment and diligence of the organizing team spread across multiple time zones. The team consisting of the MozFest London producer Sarah Allen, Amira Dhalla from Canada, Simeon Oriko from Kenya, Soumya Deb from India, Elio Qoshi from Albania and of course, the Mozilla Uganda. The team was phenomenal, in fact such a team of dedicated volunteers can only be united by  noble cause.

Building on the learnings of 2014, we were able to accomplish great fits such as hosting the president of Uganda, H. E. Yoweri Kaguta Museveni as chief guest. Build massive support from sponsors and partners. Doubling in the number of attendees and sessions. As well as what was accomplishments during the weekend.

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In just its second year, the festival has become a key launch pad for innovation hosting product launches such as the Outernet light house that was launched during the weekend.  It is providing visibility to innovations that were otherwise not known and enabling innovators to interact with the masses to get feedback about how to improve on what they are creating. The festival also provides affirmation from global festival participants to local innovators casting a glimmer of hope into the potential within. It was rewarding to see innovations receive support to continue to grow their innovations to help grow them to maturity. To the country and the region, its a re-echo, that innovations are happening and a source for information as to what can be done to strengthen it.

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The festival is also inspiring new pedagogical techniques, moving from conventional instructor/student learning styles to facilitative and practical learning where everyone contributes towards a common idea. At Mozilla, collaboration and open minded sharing is key to our learning process. We learn by sharing, and such is the spirit of MozFest.

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This kind of learning has a key effect of developing confidence and esteem among the facilitators and session attendees as well as producing collaborative groups of people sharing various skills sets and knowledge to solve common problems and challenges.  At the festival, people with ideas, meet with people that share passion for their ideas and together begin to shape them into useful solutions. It was exciting exciting to see the sessions on how open data can be used for governance and citizen management, led by a team from USHAHIDI/MAVC, passionate groups of participants working together to establish useful learning content that would be beneficial to learners and can be beamed on the Outernets platform, participants creating apps using the Webmaker app created by Mozilla and getting to understand the web more, developers getting introduced to development of apps using open technologies for Firefox OS. A particularly, amazing scenario was to see a participant pick up the skills and immediately created a puzzle game assembling the Firefox OS logo as a way to create brand visibility while having fun.

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What we accomplished on the weekend of the 17th – 19th of July was invaluable, however, it was not all that we wished to accomplish and so in 2016, the adventure continues;

We would love to open our horizons to passionate people from across the globe through virtual participation. We are working with our partners to ensure a high speed connection available for those who cannot be present in person.

For the makers, we would love to make learning more practical with DIY kits, Arduino boards and Raspberry Pis. This a key component that lacks in our education systems here with many schools and learning institutions focused on theoretical learning. Through the festival we would love to give our participants the opportunity to transcend their imaginations, an add to their experience of making.

Mozilla Uganda is working on establishing a co-working space to enable groups formed at the festival continue to work together on ideas. In this space, we will provide an environment encourages innovation to thrive – an internet connection, learning content, access to mentors, more.  This is a major challenge and request of many of our festival and other events participants.

 

 

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2015: A resolution to share Inspirations

2014 has been a great year, a lot of things have happened to me and the people around me. I got married, had a daughter, held a webmaker mentors training with Michelle Thorne and had Mark Surman around for the first ever Mozilla Festival, East Africa held in Uganda, travelled to various countries, joined the Mozilla Reps council as a council member and a lot more.

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San James and Leatitia Kampiire. Our wedding was awesome, thanks to Bishop Zac Niringiye for officiating

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Dad and Daughter: Little Atuki Amari Ruby Irankunda San is very special

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An epic moment with council members, peers and other reps mentors in Portland, Oregon. It was lovely meeting you all.

In all this, there has been a deep desire to share with the rest of the world what was going on but I didn’t. Probably the most I did was to share a couple of pictures on Facebook and of course, a few insightful comments. These can be quite informative and revealing, yes, because as the old adage goes…a picture, is worth a thousand words. However, for many others, we do love to read the story as we look at the pictures. It brings out the story a lot more elaborately and gives a lot more meaning to the pictures.

So in 2015, one of the conscious decisions I have made is to blog about the different things that happen in my life. The great experiences that I go through as well as the challenging times that by Gods grace I have always overcome.

So you would ask…what took you so long to make such a simple decision?

Indeed, it’s a simple decision…to many, but to some it involves quite a lot, especially in the beginning. I remember, when I first started out on this journey, having become a Mozilla Rep and having to blog about the different activities I undertake, I had no idea what a good blog post would look like, or what it would be like to have a personal blog. For sometime this was a challenge and even though I tried, I just did not feel the impact. My blog articles did not appeal even to myself…ever been there? I didn’t seem to have the time to invest in setting up a blog or following up to ensure it was up to date. But more so, I did not have a place to start, for real, it was just not obvious.

So what has changed? how did you find where to start?

Over the years, I found out and trust me, the best place to start, is to read other experienced peoples blogs, especially of events you were involved in and part of. You will be amazed, its inspiring and will get you just ready to take your next step.

Reading other peoples blogs about events I have been to with them has changed me. Take for example Michelle Thorne’s blog post on the webmaker mentors training in Kampala and Mark Surman’s blog post about the Mozilla Festival in East Africa, they are great reads, right? Its not just a report back about how the agenda was followed but what inspiration is drawn from the event and useful information that is shared. How about Christian Heilmann’s blog on Google IOU? or Mitchell Baker’s blog post about herself? They are all amazing, and when you read one article, you want to read another. I could go on and on with this list of amazing blogs I have come across and you know the list is endless.

Of course, one would argue that these great authors also possess lots of experience, for example Mark Surman has more than 20 years’ experience, has written two books presented at 100+ conferences and numerous blog posts over the years, but every journey has a beginning and this is mine! Thanks to all who have inspired me to take this step.

Diving into 2015, I’m looking forward to a more eventful year and will be sharing every detail of it right here. I will also keep drawing more inspiration from exciting blogs and will not forget to link back to them.

Sooooo! 2015, blog, blog and blog some more!