All-round excitement as ALIN wins Global Knowledge Award
This article has been originally published on Baobab - Issue 063 - Regional Food Systems
In a development that marked the global recognition of the organisation’s work, ALIN was declared the 2011 winner of the prestigious and highly competitive Access to Learning Award (ATLA) given annually by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF). The timing of the award was highly significant for ALIN coming as it did at the time when the organization was celebrating its 10th Anniversary since it started operations in East Africa.
The Award was announced at an event held in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on Tuesday, August 16, 2011 during the International Federation of Library Associations meeting at a ceremony presided over by Deborah Jacobs, Director of the Global Libraries initiative at the (BMGF). ALIN was recognised for taking advantage of the benefits of ICTs to empower arid lands communities by locating Maarifa (Knowledge) centres in remote arid lands across East Africa and providing free access to information resources, including the internet and library resources. Communities that receive information resources from ALIN have used them to initiate local social enterprises that have improved their livelihoods over the years.
Key ALIN milestones in the first 10 years
- Establishment of ALIN regional headquarters based at AAYMCA building, Nairobi Kenya.
- Establishment of twelve (12) Maarifa (knowledge) centres (seven – Kenya, three – Uganda and two Tanzania) and equipping them with ICT and library resources.
- Establishment of three (3) Maarifa centres for partners in Kenya and Uganda.
- Production of information products that include 34 editions of Baobab Magazine, eight Issues of Joto Afrika brieings magazine, 22 video clips, 10 diferent CD ROMs, 5 books numerous posters and other information, education and communication products.
- Pioneering use of ICTs in marginal areas starting with digital satellite broadcasting, VSATs and more.
- Working with over 60 youth volunteers in marginal areas.
- Nomination the founding Director, Mr. James Nguo, ALIN as an Ashoka fellow in April 2011
This made ALIN to be the first organisation in sub-Saharan Africa to win the Award. On hand to receive the accolade was Mr. James Nguo, the founding Regional Director of ALIN. ATLA comes with a cash prize of US$1,000,000 meant to help the recipient organisation to scale up the winning concept in order to impact a larger number of people.
Networking to transform communities’ lives Speaking during the event, Mr. Nguo had this to say: “We understand that each community we serve is different, and each individual we serve is different. Some communities need information about water harvesting, while others are dealing with a particular kind of pest. We have also found that while some people have taken to computers and technology, others prefer live demonstrations or lectures in their native language.”
“Thousands of people in these remote communities of Eastern Africa are improving their lives through the information available at these centers” said Deborah Jacobs, Director of the BMGF’s Global Libraries initiative, at the award ceremony.
Co-Chair of the BMGF, Bill Gates Senior, while congratulating ALIN for this award highlighted the efforts made to providing access to information resources that have transformed communities’ lives in marginal areas through the established 12 Maarifa (knowledge) centres. He also recognised the multi-media approach in information capture and dissemination by using online portals, magazines, videos and direct presentations and exchanges among communities.
Celebrating the Win in Kenya
In a follow up event held to share the news about the big win in Kenya and to celebrate ALIN’s 10th Anniversary held on September 1st 2011, more than 300 guests were in attendance representing different partners and donor organisations.
They came together in recognition of ALIN having facilitated networking and knowledge sharing among infomediaries (extension workers) across Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. In her keynote speech, the Acting Regional Representative of The Ford Foundation, Dr. Joyce Nyairo noted that ALIN had distinguished itself as an innovator in the use of ICTs to empower marginalized communities using the unique concept of Maarifa centres. The Foundation has been supporting ALIN’s innovation in the use of ICTs among other elements of knowledge sharing.
Text: Noah Lusaka
Noah Lusaka is a Projects Manager at ALIN. He can be reached through firstname.lastname@example.org