Insights from the project team on the recent Capacity Building Data and Digital literacy workshops
Who is behind these workshops?
The CodeBridge Youth hub for learning, innovation and collaboration is focused on introducing and advancing both government and citizens, through civic technology, to aid in problem-solving and data-driven decision making. A key focus is youth-led public participation through civic tech. Therefore, running capacity-building data and digital literacy workshops is a vital part of CodeBridge Youth’s work. I recently spoke to three of the core CodeBridge Youth organisers, Katlego Mohlabane, Damian Pool, and Adrian Kearns, to learn about their workshops and why they matter to youth.
As the Community Development Lead and workshop facilitator, Katlego Mohlabane, tell us a bit about the idea behind these capacity-building Data and Digital Literacy workshops?
K: We ran a capacity building workshop with the youth, so they could be empowered with the knowledge and skills to be active citizens in their communities. We hosted the workshops in Cederberg (3rd March), Witzenberg (5th March) and Bergrivier (18th March). This required the workshop to include segments on public participation and what it meant to be an active citizen. Further to this, we also included in the workshop digital and data literacy so that they can collect, view, analyse, and interpret data to make informed decisions and tell stories that are backed by facts. To increase the accessibility of these data and digital tools, we developed a training programme centred around free tools or tools with free versions, such as Google suites, Zoom, Canva, Youth Explorer, Municipal Money and SANEF elections dashboard.
Katlego, as a workshop facilitator, what did you learn from running the workshops in these different municipalities?
K: The theory was easy to apply, but we experienced a few challenges regarding the digital and data literacy part. The computer labs used for the Cederberg training and Witzenberg training were courtesy of Cape Access. However, both computer labs had 14 working computers, which was half the number of participants that attended each event. Also, the venues do not have Wi-Fi, so participants could not carry out the lessons on their mobile devices.
The OpenUp team improvised and used their cell phones as hotspots, but participants’ devices were not optimised for the exercise. The Google apps that we deliver the digital literacy curriculum, require participants to download the various apps on their cellphones. Some participants’ cellphones did not have the available disk space to download the apps, while other participants forgot their app store login details. This resulted in us spending more time than we were supposed to get everyone set up. We ended up doing live demos of the apps on the projector and giving tips on how to optimise one's device to use these platforms.
The OpenUp tool Youth Explorer that we had intended on showcasing turned out to be too advanced for a first engagement and did not work well on mobile devices, and Wazimap was better suited to a mobile device.
Damian Pool, Project co-ordinator and Trainer, you have been part of CodeBridge Youth for almost three years now; what insights from your time on this project have been clarified by these workshops?
D: Always treat the working environment as less than optimum for digital literacy training:
- Technical specifications vary from device to device. Most devices can carry out the curriculum but may require that users optimise their devices to make the best use of these tools.
- The ideal situation is where we provide the devices to be used for the exercises and end the lessons with guidance on how they can optimise their cellphones to perform similar tasks.
OpenUp internal tools need offline instances for presentations:
- For example, Youth Explorer loads perfectly when one runs it on a typical fibre line, but that is not the case for a mobile device with a medium to weak internet connection. The idea is to have local versions of the tools and let the participants know the technical requirement for using those tools.
Workshop evaluation questionnaires get a high completion rate when they get incorporated into the programme:
- The Cederberg and Witzenberg workshops recorded a 100% completion rate for the pre and post-workshop questionnaires. A high completion rate enables us to understand the skills and knowledge the youth have and to gauge the value of the workshops for each participant.
Katlego, you ran a couple of the training sessions alongside Damian and the Programme Lead, Adrian Kearns. From your experiences, what was it like engaging with the youth in these municipalities?
K: The youth in the workshops understand the general concept of civic engagement and public participation. Most of them have not participated in civic engagement, but they are interested. The digital literacy tools presented to them are not entirely new to them, but they did admit to not seeing them used strategically as suggested by the curriculum. They were more open when communicating in Afrikaans but still participated in segments not presented in the language. Both workshops had a small percentage of participants that did not participate much but answered when questions were specifically directed at them.
They were more open when communicating in Afrikaans but still participated in segments not presented in the language. Both workshops had a small percentage of participants that did not participate much but answered when questions were specifically directed at them.
Katlego, what has been the most worthwhile interaction this team has had at the training? What did you learn as a result?
K: It has to be when the youth of Wiztenberg created posters on Canva to be distributed for the water justice campaign spearheaded by our implementing partners in the region, the Witzenberg Justice Coalition.
They displayed a perfect understanding of the poster creation training, which was an add-on. The youth also showed a grasp of what civic engagement is and how to address the issues in their community.
Adrian, as Product Owner and Programme Lead, how did these workshops enhance your understanding of working with youth in municipalities?
A: These workshops highlighted that the CodeBridge Youth Project is about finding innovative solutions to engage and capacitate youth in these communities. As Katlego and Damian have mentioned, we experienced some challenges running the workshop with the limited technology available in these municipalities. However, we iterated after each workshop, pivoting from the challenges we had toward the goals we wanted to achieve.
We realised the following;
- Most young people had smartphones,
- Most rural towns do not have the number of computers available for workshops with 20+ people, and
- All the project team needed was "adequate connectivity" and to tailor the workshop programme to suit a mobile device. In doing this we were able to shift our curriculum towards being mobile-friendly, enabling the youth to participate with the tool they have access to on a daily basis, their cellphone.
CodeBridge Youth is the hub for learning, innovation and collaboration focused on Youth-led public participation through civic tech. With this in mind, if you are interested in finding out more about some of our work. Please let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.