Faith Zuma currently works with the Mombasa Technology Community, a community based organization founded with the aim of synergizing technology efforts and helping the community gain better access to education, communication, development, and support. As a contributor to the Mozilla foundation, Faith worked on a year long project, the Digital Skills Observatory Project (DSO) to help deepen the understanding of low-income first-time smartphone users and how they utilize the technology, mobile applications, the web, and Digital Financial Services.
Can you tell me a bit about your work? Perhaps starting with a broad overview, and then highlighting specific projects?
My name is Faith Zuma and l am currently living in Kenya in the County of Mombasa. I am a Mozilla contributor through the Mombasa Technology Community. I’m based in Mombasa. I currently work on some IT support, and I also do an open research to our tech community — our community is recognized as one of the Mozilla’s community contributors in Kenya.
In my community we have been helping people on different technology aspects and also helping them grow in their careers.
I got involved with Mozilla through Mombasa Tech, during the sessions of learning new technology creations and language which we did.
Tell me about a time when you felt a sense of success. Thinking about your work, can you hone in on one specific example — a story or anecdote — where you felt a sense of success? It could be recent, or simply a situation that stands out for you.
What I found about my successes recently when we did the project of Digital Skills Observatory (DSO) — a one-year project working with amazing Mozilla team. It was my first time doing a year-long project — the last project I did was a school project for a six months period. Apart from that, I found the Mozilla project was the biggest and was exciting and successful. I couldn’t have imagined balancing every responsibility I had with work with the Mozilla project. I’m proud of myself for making it a success — to see the project published for the work that we did.
We were Mozilla volunteers. During the project l became the project lead for Mombasa team. I learned a lot with that role — I learned about how to conduct a research that I didn’t know. I learned more about how to provide to people, not only today and tomorrow, but to withstand all the negativity and the positivity which, as a volunteer we all come across. l learned how to work with different kind of personalities and also I learned a lot from Laura de Reynal and Bobby Richter on how they organize their work and how they come up with all the stages of the project. I also learned a lot from other volunteers from other parts of Kenya on how they did their work, and this gives me an open mind and open ideas on how we can build our community here in Mombasa to be great even more.
The DSO overall, for me, what I understood it was a research project designed to understand how first-time smartphone user — low incomers — how they are using their smartphones, how they interacted daily to daily, and how they felt on how their smartphone has given back to into their life, and how technology as a whole, it has given them an impact, for a positive impact or a negative impact in their life as a whole.
The thing which is surprising to me is that a lot of people, even me, buy our smartphones but we don’t know anything about it apart from the basics. We don’t know anything about what our amazing smartphones can do, but through DSO I’ve been able to be open-minded — to learn a lot of stuff from my phone and from others, too. Also, it was a great opportunity to hear new things from the respondent that you are interacting with during the DSO project as a whole in the year. It was very great to have that.
I learned a lot about different apps. I learned how somebody can give you a call on Facebook — I had never done that before. We were able to be shown by this woman how to give you a call.
Also, I learned how I can convert my airtime into a real cash if I buy a lot of airtime using my M-Pesa account. I can reverse the airtime into cash, so I did learn that, but we were able to get all that knowledge through the interventions we held during the DSO project.
How about an example of a challenge? Especially one that’s persistent or top-of-mind.
There was a lot of challenge during the whole research.
For me, I found life of challenging — It was difficult for me to balance my work responsibility and my volunteer responsibilities, so at the time I found myself missing the interventions. At the time I had to sacrifice my job parts to come to the intervention parts, or to go to Nairobi, so I would lose three days of my work to go to that intervention and I come back needing recovery, but sometimes the boss doesn’t understand you.
It was difficult for me personally, and also in regards to the project it was difficult for us to maintain the number of participants who attended the intervention. For some, there was a language barrier, especially in our area of coast region in Mombasa. Most from that region were kind of illiterate — they didn’t understand the English point of view. During teaching of the curriculum and discussion we had to translate to the language they understand — Kiswahili. We found some of the respondents who were able to send their brothers or sisters to come instead, to come to the event to grasp whatever has been taught in English, and go home and translate to them. Through that we were able to convert their mindsets and keep them in line to come and attend the intervention and see the intervention as a good thing in their life too.
How have you approached addressing this challenge?
All of these challenges — we had to face them. At the end of everything we do, we come up with a solution on how to solve it — as a group and as an individual, but mostly we did it as a whole group. After everything we did we would write down all the problems and discuss how we saw it, how we can do it much better at the end, or the next day when we come — so it was easy for us to come up with a solution to solve every problem we have.
Turning now to the broadest issue in the Mozilla universe: “internet health.” What for you is a “healthy internet”?
My idea of an internet that is healthy is the one which is secure for me. One that can provide protection to every site that I visit, and can protect my privacy — mostly in accounts which I open through the internet. So a healthy internet is the one which can give me a good protection and a good privacy to everything that I do in the internet.
What does “working open” mean to you?
When you work in open you are able to open your mind to grab new ideas from others. Working open can give you a lot of ideas and it can open a lot of solution to everything that you have.
During my time at university I understood whatever the teachers taught us — but whatever the teachers taught us I would only use that during my project. Then I joined Mombasa Tech to learn more apart from what the teacher told us and then I decided to join to the community to have an open work with them to learn more. They were able to help me. I find working in open very effective, more than working alone. Doing the whole DSO project really helped us to accomplish a lot.
How did you get involved with Mozilla and what has that been like for you?
I have a lot of experience with Mozilla, actually. Apart from the DSO, they have given us a way to create different tech products events to teach others in the community. Through those events we are able to learn new things about what Mozilla have produced. The last year we were able to come up with an event for data and privacy — I think that was the theme of the whole privacy idea. Also l I’ve learned a lot of stuff, a lot of gadgets, open projects, creation of work, knowledge skills, communication skills — it’s a lot of everything, through Mozilla.
For example, the one with the privacy, I was not able to know how to encrypt — how to create a strong password. During the events which were organized by Mozilla for data and privacy, I was able to learn more about how to go to a secure site and to be able to recognize which is a secure site and which one is not a secure site. I was able to learn about different types of viruses, and how to avoid them. Also, on the side of programming, we were able to learn from Mozilla how to use the HTML editor, Mozilla webmaker, on how to link apps, and how to use bugzilla.
The DSO parts, I’ve learned how to do hands-on research and fieldwork. Through Mozilla I’ve been able to acquire these skills.
Can you tell me about a time Mozilla had some sort of impact on your life, work, or organization?
On a day to day life I am impacting others with the same knowledge that I learned through my research. Actually, last week I helped my brother on a research assignment. He is an engineer and I was able to help him with how to do field work — how to draw up the field charts and how to organize. I was able to impact him. Also, through Mozilla we were able to come up with a lot of data privacy. Last year when I learned about the data privacy, during the intervention, we were given a topic on how to set up good accounts, show passwords, and how to show people to use different internet browsers. With that knowledge that I had, I was able to teach others that knowledge and have impact on others.
Before I met the Mombasa Tech Community, I had already known about Mozilla, but not the way I have inside the organization. I just knew Mozilla as one of the browsers, and as I was able to visit the sites and I was able to create an account in Mozilla — the one we call the Mozillians. I was able to sign myself into the Mozillian community, learn what others have been doing — to see what Mozilla was before I joined the Mombasa Tech Community.
Can you tell me about a time when Mozilla disappointed you? What feedback would you give them to improve?
When the time Mozilla disappointed me. I haven’t seen one. Maybe the browser killing some sites l visited or hanging up.
If you had access to 10 skilled volunteer collaborators or contributors — what would their skills be, and what would you ask them to do?
It’s to keep on doing the great work we are doing — to help out a lot of communities out there, especially in Kenya. There are lots of people who need the knowledge of technology. There are guys that we have that have wide experience about technology. They are creating a lot of stuff. They are good people who have good adventure. If you can have the community of Mozilla recognizing these guys and helping them with their ideas, it would be great. The way they did this DSO research they were able to take volunteers from Mozilla and work with them. It’s good they continue the same spirit to come on and get guys who are creating apps, creating a lot of things in technology, and let them be recognized out there.
I will speak of communication skills, teamwork, good time-management people, people who are open-minded, people who are ready to give out the ideas more than others. Also, passionate people, and patient people. People should have patience — those are people who see ahead to the future.
Five years from now my target is to use whatever I have in my mind to impact others — to be able to stand up and say, yes, I got to mentor these people.