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;
- 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.
- 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.
- East Africa had key challenges that we believe collective efforts at MozFest would help us solve – see mozfestea.org 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.