Njideka Harry ’12, founder of the Youth for Technology Foundation, teams with EMBA classmates to open a new ‘digital village’ in Latin America
8/28/2012 - Sitting in an English literature class during her first semester at an American college, Nigerian-born Njideka Harry ’12 braced for a challenge.
As the professor told the class to “write about a time when …”, Harry’s classmates grabbed their keyboards and began typing away. Harry looked around in confusion. In that moment, she realized her biggest hurdle wasn’t going to be an unfamiliar language or culture.
“I grew up in an environment where I had no access to technology, so from the get-go I was already behind my digital peers,” she remembers.
It was this experience that prompted Harry — now a Kellogg Executive MBA
student — to found the Youth for Technology Foundation
(YTF), a nonprofit organization dedicated to transforming the lives of youth and women in developing nations. Since 2000, YTF has impacted the lives of more than 270,000 rural youth and women in more than 1,400 communities. Bridging the digital divide
Harry’s organization pioneered the “Digital Village” movement in sub-Saharan Africa, establishing community-learning centers that are now hubs for training and information.
The organization operates in Cameroon, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Uganda and the U.S., and now, thanks to Harry’s EMP-87 class, in Latin America.
In August, Harry traveled with three Kellogg classmates to open a new YTF center in Soacha, Colombia, about 15 miles south of Bogota. The new Soacha Digital Village will provide daily technology education and training to 50 to 60 children and will offer wider support to the community as well.
The computers were donated by Kellogg classmates and their employers, and installed by Harry and her teammates. Harry’s classmate Rosemery Carrillo ’12, a Bogota native, helped connect Harry with a local partner, the Semilla & Fruto Foundation, an organization focused on breaking the cycle of poverty in Soacha.
“It’s a very poor area that has few resources and is mostly made up of displaced families, meaning they had to leave their homes, schools and extended families because of violence and armed conflict,” Harry says.
Seeing the kids gathered around the computers on the center’s opening day was a life-changing experience, Carrillo says.
“They marveled at the idea of having access to the Internet,” she says. “These technological tools are going to make a big difference for them.”
Harry hopes the center will become an ongoing social outreach project for Kellogg’s Miami Campus
students, many of whom travel from Latin America to Miami to earn their Kellogg Executive MBAs.
“They’ll be able to go down and donate volunteer hours any time they want and see the impact of those hours in the community and in the lives of the children who live there,” she says. Further reading
- Beyond coursework
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