The United States Embassy in Pretoria hosted South Africa’s first YALI TechCamp: Digital Strategies for Grassroots Organizing. TechCamp is a hands-on, interactive two-day event for selected youth from ten countries in Africa, including South Africa, to interact with world-class technology trainers. The YALI TechCamp took place from October 21-22 at the American Corner, inside the Es’kia Mphahlele Community Library in Pretoria.
Macon Phillips, the Department of State’s Coordinator for the Bureau of International Information Programs (IIP), was in South Africa to attend the opening ceremony. Speaking during his opening remarks Macon said since YALI’s inception there are now over 150 000YALI networks, which shows numbers are growing every year.
“The participants are developing innovative solutions to real problems they face in their communities, and in overcoming these obstacles, they can reinforce not only their technological and organizational capacities, but also their knowledge of communication strategies and techniques, said Macon Phillips.”
In an interview with one of the participants, Safiya Bichi a program officer for Youth Initiative for Advocacy, Growth and Advancement in Nigeria said TechCamp has been an eye-opener for her. “Attending TechCamp has taught me to better organize online using some of the international best practices, and further use graphics, codes and pictures in conveying messages to my target audience”. She also added that she deals with the youth and mobilizes them to participate in elections. “TechCamp has assisted me in identifying ways of mobilizing the youth to participate in elections and make sure that they receive the necessary information before partaking in elections”, she said.
Another participant, Nhlanhla Khumalo from South Africa who is a program officer for Black Management Forum said TechCamp said he learnt how to message and tailor make message for his audience. “I have learnt about digital strategies to convey messages even for people who even do not want to read, and that is one of the things that will help me convey messages to the youth. Nhlanhla also added that he learnt how to interact with his audience with little or no budget which is something that will come in handy for him and his organization.
The Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) TechCamp brought together grassroots organizers from the YALI network for a hands-on technology-led interactive training event. TechCamp helps empower civil society organizations, journalists, entrepreneurs and government representatives, by training them on the use of low-cost, easy-to-implement technological tools and concepts, making these groups more effective in the work they do. The YALI TechCamp focused on three themes: Elections and Good Governance, Human Rights, and Climate Change. Invited participants will connect with technologists from around the world for a discussion of topics such as: SMS for advocacy and campaigns; using mobile to reach rural communities; and open innovation through crowdsourcing.
Over the years, the Department of State has led more than forty TechCamps, all over the world, on a variety of topics, including women’s/youth empowerment, open data, crime and security, environment, modern media tools, combating human trafficking and social inclusion. These TechCamps have trained more than 2,300 participants from over 110 countries. TechCamps aim to foster economic growth, increase transparency, promote human rights, and spread democratic values.