image of Nelly Cheboi teaching students to use a computer

Nelly Cheboi: Former Volunteer Becomes New Strategic Ally

October 10, 2020

Nelly Cheboi was 18 the first time she used a computer: she was applying to colleges in the US from her home country, Kenya. A few years later, she graduated from Augustana College with degrees in Mathematics and Computer Science and built a school in rural Kenya with the goal of bringing computer learning to children there.

These alone are remarkable feats. However, Nelly went one step further when she founded her own nonprofit, TechLitAfrica. This organization provides computers and computer training to schools in rural Kenya. Stemming from personal experience, Nelly recognizes the lack of technological resources for students in many areas of the country.

“The living conditions in rural Kenya are very dire. I grew up there,” Nelly said. “Without massive investment, it would be very hard to fix.”

TechLitAfrica is a new WCE Global Strategic Ally. WCE provides assistance to TechLitAfrica in its work in Kenya and Ghana. However, Nelly became acquainted with WCE long before she began her nonprofit. She was originally a volunteer for WCE’s Chicago Chapter, through which she gained experience with this type of work.

“The internet and digital technology has made this easy. We just need to bring [technology] here and work on its adoption in business, individuals and government.”

Nelly Cheboi, founder of TechLitAfrica, stands at the head of a classroom with students at a school in Kenya.

TechLitAfrica plans to bring computers to as many Kenyan schools and students as possible. The organization recently shipped 130 workstations with the help of WCE fiscal sponsorship. The computers are now stored in Mogotio, ready to be delivered to Kenyan schools once they reopen.

“It is very unsettling to me that we are already talking about machine learning while most people in rural Africa haven’t touched a computer. I think of empowering us through education as giving us the tools to solve our problems, so we all take part in the solution.”

Nelly’s goal is to make sure Kenyan students are not left behind in the ever-changing digital landscape. In a 2019 interview with Software Engineering Daily, Nelly discussed her concern that a lack of reliable, instant internet connection can limit people’s curiosity. In the context of rural Kenya, this lack of curiosity can inhibit development, thus increasing the disparity with technology-rich societies.

“In America, there’s a certain level of curiosity…that arises from just being able to find answers immediately,” Nelly said. “In Kenya, I don’t see that. If it’s limited in the way you’re going to get the answer, then it’s just going to be limited in how curious you become.”