Pitch your solution.
The technology sector is one of the fastest growing sectors providing opportunities for well-paying employment. Unfortunately, few women are taking advantage of the opportunities in this growing sector. For young women to be employable and have a chance of finding a decent job in the IT field, they need to acquire the right knowledge and skills through post-secondary education.
Through codeHive, we are building highly competitive young women with 21st- century skills in technology and moving them out of the vicious cycle of low-skills, low productivity, and low-wage employment. Unlike other coding boot camps, AkiraChix’s codeHive program employs a holistic approach towards building hands-on technical skills and increasing women’s agency. This combination of skills and agency develops powerful women who are building solutions for the problems in their communities. With skilled women, you are assured not only of economic changes, but also a shift in societal norms.
Film your elevator pitch.
What specific problem are you solving?
Even though the technology sector is one the fastest growing sectors in Africa providing opportunities for well-paying employment to both men and women, unfortunately, few women are taking advantage of the opportunities in this growing sector.
Technology has been a male dominated field over the years with major contributors and consumers primarily being men and only 15% of women actively involved in the sector. There are several cultural and social issues given for this, including but not limited to: lack of access to financing; limited skills and training; time constraints due to family commitments; lack of role models; parental and peer discouragement; lack of exposure and interest. It is further observed that while men are introduced to technology and gain interest at an early age in life, women tend to shy away from the studies of STEM while in primary and secondary school.
Generally, there is a very low percentage of women in technical and vocational education (TVE). Moreover, the women who do enroll in TVE are often only prepared in such non-technical areas as fashion and design (tailoring), hairdressing and beauty therapy and front office management courses.
What is your solution?
Access to education and training is of paramount importance for young women to support them in moving out of the vicious cycle of low-skills, low-productivity, and low-wage employment and as a pathway to bridging the gender gap in STEM. Removing barriers to access to training, and addressing the specific needs of young women, is essential for achieving highly competitive young women.
codeHive provides education and economic opportunity to under-served young women between 18 and 24 years who have completed high school, but are unable to further their education due to financial constraints.
The program offers courses in;
- User interface/experience (UI/UX),
- Front-end mobile development (Android/Kotlin)
- Back-end development (Python/Django)
- Hardware product design & electronics
- Professional development (career coaching)
- Software quality management
- Navigating your journey (life skills classes) as well as;
- Specialized certifications in cloud computing i.e Amazon Web Services, machine learning and data science.
All our courses are researched and designed to equip all our students with skills relevant to the current needs of the market.
After the one year training, the young women graduate with a diploma and are placed in tech companies ensuring a smooth transition from education to the technical workforce.
Who does your solution serve, and in what ways will the solution impact their lives?
The goal of the program is to increase the socioeconomic ability of young women by empowering them as change agents who can be proactive rights holders. In this regard, we target young women who come from under-served households.These are young women that have completed high school but due to financial constraints are unable to further their education.
The program specifically targets vulnerable young women from low socioeconomic backgrounds in order to promote their economic and financial independence. With skilled women, you are assured not only of economic changes, but also a shift in societal norms. A graduate of this program will;
Have higher agency; she will no longer view STEM as a hard career and there will be more self-belief and confidence in her abilities and skills;
Increased job opportunities;due to the exposure into the tech industry through ecosystem events, job fairs and mentor-ship the young woman will have a wide range of opportunities to choose from.
Higher-income levels; she will earn a minimum wage of $350 per month higher than 54% of Kenya’s formally employed population. This will in turn increase the income levels in her household further breaking the cycle of inter-generational poverty.
Which dimension of the Challenge does your solution most closely address?Strengthen competencies, particularly in STEM and digital literacy, for girls and young women to effectively transition from education to employment
Explain how the problem, your solution, and your solution’s target population relate to the Challenge and your selected dimension.
Empowering women to participate fully in economic life across all sectors is essential to build stronger economies and improve the quality of life.
For young women to be employable and have a chance of finding a decent job in the IT field, they need to acquire the right knowledge and skills through post-secondary education.
Through codeHive, we are building highly competitive young women with 21st- century skills, strengthening their skills and competencies in STEM and effectively transitioning them from education to the workforce as well as moving them out of the vicious cycle of low-skills, low productivity, and low-wage employment
In what city, town, or region is your solution team headquartered?Nairobi, Kenya
What is your solution’s stage of development?Pilot: An organization deploying a tested product, service, or business model in at least one community
Who is the primary delegate for your solution?
Linda Kamau, Manging Director & Co-founder
If you have additional video content that explains your solution, provide a YouTube or Vimeo link here:
Which of the following categories best describes your solution?A new business model or process
Describe what makes your solution innovative.
Unlike other coding boot camps, AkiraChix’s codeHive program employs a holistic approach towards building hands-on technical skills and increasing women’s agency. This combination of skills and agency develops powerful women who are building solutions for the problems in their communities. According to UNESCO, as of June 9 2020, learning of 562,521 Kenyans in tertiary institutions has been affected due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Existing education tech solutions are focused on primary and high school education with little or no attention to technical and vocational training, especially for underserved communities.
Our one-year programme runs various co-curricular activities allowing the girls to explore the technology space, receive mentorship, visit tech companies and attend technology conferences. They have a one-month internship and also have to work on projects to graduate. This was going to naturally grind to a halt due to Covid-19.
Faced with the “new normal”, we have continued with training through innovative instruction models that adapt to our students’ home routines. We introduced #codeHiveLite - delivering 10% of the actual codeHive experience where students are learning via Whatsapp mobile application. This pivot has ensured we remain on schedule with our training while other institutions including some of the leading universities in the country have put their programs on hold.
AkiraChix is able to pivot quickly because of the holistic approach as the kind of support the young women receive goes beyond just class but ensuring they have the resources needed e.g data, basic smartphones as well as food packages.
Describe the core technology that powers your solution.
codeHive is a residential program that runs various co-curricular activities allowing the girls to explore the technology space, receive mentorship, visit tech companies and attend technology conferences. We use a blended learning approach with both in-person and online classes.
With the switch due to Covid-19, codeHive Lite runs on WhatsApp; there are 11 groups. One group for general conversation and bonding amongst the girls and one for each of the ten courses.
Normally classes are split into 26 students each, with this dynamic, instructors balance 52 students on WhatsApp therefore we needed to structure classes differently. The three-hour classes run in three segments. In the first hour, instructors walk students through the lesson and share either screenshots of slides or pdfs ( which are lighter to download than actual slides) or simple word document notes. The second-hour students go through the content, discuss it and seek any clarifications and in the final hour, the class works on an assignment.
For the programming classes, students learn on an offline application called Dcoder, where they are able to write and run their code.
There have been a lot of fits and starts. First smartphones, not all girls have smartphones or phones compatible to handle software like WhatsApp, that means purchasing cell phones for these girls. We then have to ensure all the girls have the internet, that means purchasing weekly phone data bundles for them.
With a combination of hardware and software, we have ensured continued learning despite the pandemic.
Provide evidence that this technology works.
According to the 2019 Global Mobile Consumer Survey: Kenyan Cut, published by Deloitte, instant messaging applications have almost doubled in just three years, from 43 per cent in 2015 to 74 per cent in 2018. Based on this, WhatsApp is an ideal learning option. It’s the most widely used instant messaging application in Kenya and most of the world.
See video below on how it works;
Please select the technologies currently used in your solution:
What is your theory of change?
Our overall Impact is for young women to develop capacity to be competitive thus, access opportunities in the information technology industry .Through the codeHive program, young women will become key players in the tech industry by participating and pursuing various technology opportunities and roles that allow them to build, serve and lead; Key outcomes will be;
Increase in tech skills that are industry-relevant
Perception and Behavior change towards tech
Young women increased agency and self-confidence
Young women feel they can be change-makers in their own lives
Young women are placed in tech jobs
Increased income leading to Improved households
Some key indicators for these are:
Number of young women enrolled in codeHive activities
Number of young women trained and graduated from codeHive activities
Number of Kenyan counties the young women come from
Number of East African countries the young women come from
To ensure a successful transition from codeHive to the workforce, we will carry out activities such as;
Recruit and onboard students through a rigorous selection process.
Train selected students with an industry driven curriculum with the syllabus broken down into three semesters.
Organize career clinics and job fairs with tech companies for students to pitch and interact with potential employers.
Students will be placed in a one-month work study program with tech companies during the training period to develop industry experience and put their skills into use.
Expose the young women to the tech ecosystem through job shadowing, self hosted events as well as external effects e.g Droidcon
Track and monitor income of the graduates to ensure their income levels are increasing
Carry out a survey with current and potential employers of codeHive graduates to understand their pain points, tech needs as well as gaps in the market.
Organize curriculum review and work plan development meetings with trainers to review curriculum based on market needs/gaps
Up skill graduates with on demand certifications in cloud computing (Amazon Web Services), machine learning and data science to give them an edge in the tech industry
Select the key characteristics of your target population.
Which of the UN Sustainable Development Goals does your solution address?
In which countries do you currently operate?
In which countries will you be operating within the next year?
How many people does your solution currently serve? How many will it serve in one year? In five years?
In the last 10 years, we have trained 193 young women with 80% of those working in the tech industry. As we start a new decade, we envision training 10,000 young women in the next 10 years, building a powerful female tech talent for the African continent. This is a big hairy audacious goal but with the right partnerships and support it’s achievable.
In the next year, codeHive will serve 100 young women from all the 47 regions of Kenya as well as young women from countries within the East Africa Region. In the next 5 years, codeHive will serve 5000 young women from countries in Africa, sub-saharan region.
What are your goals within the next year and within the next five years?
To achieve our impact goals over the next year and within five years, we envision changing the narrative for young women in the following ways;
Recruit and train 5000 young women in technology based knowledge and skills to prepare them to take up tech-based jobs
Recruit young women from Kenya and 10 other African countries increasing our reach in the continent
Connect over 85% of these young women with jobs for them to earn/increase their income as well as advance their career trajectories in the technology sector
Convene Tech companies,Industry players and tech community to create opportunities for young women in tech as well as to up-skill or re-skill and connect these young women to market demands
What barriers currently exist for you to accomplish your goals in the next year and in the next five years?
- With our program headquartered in Kenya, political unrest is a huge risk with general elections expected in the next 2 years. This might affect our programming as the country has a history of having tense elections.
- Financial stability of the organization - as we grow the program costs will increase and so establishing a sustainable way to grow and increase our impact at manageable costs is what we battle with everyday.
- Being in a very niche market that is quickly growing but academia is still not catching up means we have to battle with cultural barriers on why technology is not a preserve for the male gender and so girls and women should be exposed to it.
How do you plan to overcome these barriers?
- For political unrest, we will rework our curriculum to ensure that the election month does not find the students in session to avoid missing of classes as well as putting the students at risk in case of any election fallout.
- Developing a fundraising strategy that allows for long term funders and multi-year grants e. 3-5 years. In addition investing time in sustainable programs such as paid corporate trainings that can earn revenue for the organization to support the fully subsidized program.
- Sharing of success stories often and holding townhalls in communities to educate parents and communities on opportunities in technology that their young women will benefit from if they took up tech as a career choice. Being intentional on advocacy.
What type of organization is your solution team?Nonprofit
If you selected Other, please explain here.
How many people work on your solution team?
There are 6 full time staff who work on codeHive with 11 trainers who are part time consultants.
How many years have you worked on your solution?
Why are you and your team well-positioned to deliver this solution?
Since 2010, AkiraChix has been training vulnerable girls from low income areas. We have successfully graduated 193, of these, 80% of them have been placed in gainful employment. The class of 2019 is no exception with 70% of the students placed in jobs within 60 days of graduation.
This would not be possible without a strong management system and structure in place. This includes;
An independent advisory board that constitutes senior level men and women in the ICT industry. Their role is to complement the organization’s management by providing timely guidance and insights to advance AkiraChix’s vision and mentorship to the organization’s management.
A strong management team that leads and oversees a team of four staff and ten consultant trainers. The Directors are both engineers by profession with over 10 years of experience in the tech world.
AkiraChix boasts a strong team of expert ICT trainers, who work in the IT industry or run their own successful technology based business
AkiraChix work has been featured on NPR, Huffington Post, PBS NewsHour as well as drawn interest and visits from high level personalities such as former UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon and President Uhuru Kenyatta. Linda (Director) was named an Obama Foundation Leader: Africa, 2018 and AkiraChix work was profiled by the foundation.
What organizations do you currently partner with, if any? How are you working with them?
Digital Divide Data provides training to the codeHive students on cloud computing with a focus on Amazon Web Services. Once trained the students take an exam to get the Amazon Web Services Solutions Architect certification. This gives the students an edge in the market and increases their opportunities of getting a higher income than their peers.
What is your business model?
Being a non-profit, AkiraChix revenue comes from grants, donations and earned revenue. Working with a vulnerable population means none of the young women is able to afford fees and based on previously identified barriers, lack of financial means is a huge barrier to accessing technical training. With the cost per student per year of $4000, we raise money from foundations, corporate organization as well as multilateral organizations to support the program.
Despite being a non-profit, we are able to generate revenue through corporate trainings as well as a give back program from the alumni. This revenue contributes 8% of our operating costs but we are working on growing it to about 15-20% in the next 3-5 years.
Do you primarily provide products or services directly to individuals, or to other organizations?Individual consumers or stakeholders (B2C)
What is your path to financial sustainability?
In the last 10 years, AkiraChix has raised over $1.5m in grant funding from donors such as multilateral organizations, family foundations as well as individual and corporate companies.
We will intensify our efforts to grow the philanthropic revenue especially for scale but also invest in our earned revenue strategies. This will involve working with corporate companies who hire our students to start paying a placement fee.
We will also leverage on county governments in Kenya to get funds from the regions as we work with young women from their regions.
We will ensure there is capacity to grow and increase the revenue and therefore will invest in the fundraising and business development department.
Why are you applying to Solve?
As we start a new decade, we envision training 10,000 young women from 10 African countries in the next 10 years. This is a big hairy audacious goal but with the right partnerships and support it’s achievable.
Being part of the Solve community will expose us to like minded people as well as experts who we can learn from and help us hone our business model to propel us to impact at scale.
We also hope to develop partnerships that would see our students get guest lectures from some of the top technologists and create opportunities outside the African continent, building global workers and leaders.
In which of the following areas do you most need partners or support?
Please explain in more detail here.
As we look to grow our impact, it's essential for us to firm up our business model and getting help with this would be great as it will lead into us realizing increased funding, better strategies for expansion in different countries as well as positioning ourselves as the market leader for female tech talent.
What organizations would you like to partner with, and how would you like to partner with them?
We would like to partner with tech companies such as Amazon for:
To add an AWS module to the curriculum as well as bootcamps for the students in machine learning, IOT, AI and cyber security as well as certifications for the same.
AWS credits worth $100,000 to ensure adequate practice leading to higher quality of learning and better results during certification.
Access to AWS network of companies that could be employers of the codeHive graduates
- Linda Kamau Managing Director, AkiraChix