I recently joined the UNICEF innovation unit to work on the Programmabilities project which aims to create a cohort of young deaf computer programmers. Over the next several months I will use this blog to tell the story of this project and my experience of working on it.

The purpose is to develop a method for training young deaf computer programmers in Zimbabwe, Uganda and be able to scale it to other countries. This way young deaf students will be able to work independently and have a fair chance in the employment market.
As I started working on the topic the main challenge was to find my starting point, the angle from which to take and develop the project.

In order to do that I started thinking what I like, what I found strange and then decided where to start from.

What I like about this project is that it priorities open source technology and content, making the technology and materials free of charge, customizable and adaptable by anyone.

  • I like the way of UNICEF/Innovation Unit to approach a project and to make it easy to adapt in different context and environments.
  •  It is great to develop a project that can easily further be modified without the burden of licenses and high expenses. In this way you can adapt all or only parts of it in any context. This is the key for a sustainable project.

Another aspect that I like is the possibility to work with different partners, including the country office, technology experts, and private sectors.

  • It is a great task to put together all partners contributions and experiences and make this project action-oriented and sustainable.
  • The three patners involved will also have the opportunity to supervise the work of each other and therefore make sure that the project will reflect the best components of their collaborative work.

The project has the following three main areas of development:

a. Disabilities
b. Technology
c. Developing World/under resourced environment

I found strange that there are several projects involving at least two of the above mentioned aspects (for instance technology and deaf youth, deaf youth and the under-resourced world etc.) but I couldn’t find any projects that involve all 3 aspects together.

  • The power of this project is to involve all three aspects and make sure that all of them can be changed without changing the nature of the project. It means that we can easily change a variable of the triangle below without effecting the structure or process of the project.
  • The use of open source technology allows everyone to use this project and change it according to environment, technology and content needs.

Therefore I decided to visualize my starting point as follows:

Next steps: During the first months of my work I started thinking what features this project should have. The main components of the project are: make use of open source technology, be user-friendly, have a basic IT infrastructure that takes into account environmental constrains etc. This is just a starting point that will help to define the best and easiest way to create a method to train young deaf adolescents to become computer programmers.
The next steps are not only to define the components of the project prototype we want to develop, but also to define how this prototype will be developed and what will be…..
I will leave a little of suspense and expectation for my next post which will follow shortly…

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