By Cherie Oyier.
Earlier this year 2021, I read a book by Austin Kleon titled, “Show Your Work.” It is a tiny book that I think everyone should read. Anyway, this book’s main objective is to encourage more people to show the behind-the-scenes or backend processes that go into achieving final results. Austin claims that showing the backend processes not only gives the creator an opportunity to see and appreciate their progress, it also inspires others of the possibility of success and opens the floor for feedback and ideas on how to improve the process for future creators. It is on this basis that I am inspired to write about my experience as a Kenya School of Internet Governance (#KeSIG2021) cohort.
I trace my experience back to when the call for applications was made. The call for applications is made annually via the KeSIG website and then it makes its way into various social media platforms through re-sharing. I, for instance, saw the call in one of the WhatsApp groups I am a member of. This, therefore, goes to show that it is important to join communities or groups of like-minded people where you are likely to see such updates. However, if you are yet to meet such people, worry not, you can always check the KeSIG website or better yet follow them on their different social media pages to stay updated. The application form comes as a Google form that is easy to navigate and fill. The questions on the form require that you demonstrate why you want to take up the course, what plans or contributions you intend to make in the Internet Governance space post the course among other details. I strongly recommend that applicants provide well-thought, honest and contextual answers. The application and admission process is very competitive thus you want your application to stands out and to give recruiters as much context as to why you deserve a slot, therefore generic answers will not favor you.
Successful applicants will receive an onboarding email that also includes the course program. It is imperative that you regularly check your email for this. As this cohort was held online due to the pandemic, the introductory class was done before the e-learning portal was open for access by students. In this introductory class, the faculty got to introduce themselves, train us on how to navigate the e-learning platform, and finally give us access to the platform. The e-learning platform is easy to navigate therefore you are guaranteed to have a great user experience, or at least I did.
Once admitted, we were able to start our self-paced learning for a week. During this period, we got access to six lessons including external links to further resources and material, graded forum discussions, and assignments after each lesson. For me, one of the best parts of this cohort was the creation of a WhatsApp group at the onset. Membership of the group included students and the faculty and this created a space to seek support and an opportunity for horizontal exchange of experiences, views, and observations freely. When the course got more technical as we made progress, this group came in handy with participants discussing their challenges and offering valuable guidance. Interaction within the group was a good icebreaker to creating new networks especially since the essence of the cohort is to create new communities to lend their voices in the Internet Governance space. The fact that the cohort accommodates participants from different disciplines, means that members offer diverse perspectives during discussions that build on the quality of discussions. The group also acts as a constant accountability partner. Many are the times members checked in to find out if all members had submitted assignments and most nights there was someone counting down to the submission deadline.
The KeSIG and KICTANet faculty provided valuable support through the group as well. I like to think of the faculty members as open and transparent like the internet – all pun intended! Faculty members were more like peers and very approachable. They answered our sometimes very amateur questions without reservation, challenged and pushed our intellectual limits, and most importantly they were very open to learning from us.
After each lesson, students are to complete a graded forum discussion and assignments. These forums seek opinions on the topic covered. My recommendation to future students, therefore, is to read the resources provided for each lesson and go the extra mile of finding more resources on the Internet in order to engage better. Since the time for submission of the assignments is limited, ensure to actively set aside time each day to complete your reading and assignments on time. Further, please actively participate in the forum discussions as these discussions add value to the overall Internet Governance space.
In the second week, students are required to attend live online sessions for three days. During this time, the faculty invites industry players to share their thoughts and experiences on different issues. The sessions are open to participants to engage with the industry leaders through questions, feedback, and opinions. Active participation is key as it enables you to grasp concepts better and seek clarity on current issues happening in a particular industry.
The final quiz is made accessible to students on the third day of the final week. This quiz is a consolidation of questions that cut across all six lessons. The quiz is timed so you might sweat a little but it is totally doable if you study and attend live sessions. The results of the quiz are generated in real-time and are accessible on the platform, students are also able to track their grades, and progress through the platform as they progress.
The last day of KeSIG always coincides with the Kenya Internet Governance Forum (KeIGF) day. Students get to attend the forum and interact with more industry players for the entire day. Upon completion of the course, students are issued with shareable certificates and they can go on to engage and contribute in discussions that shape Internet Governance.
The Internet is an integral part of our day-to-day lives, it is an enabler of our fundamental rights and freedoms and thus we each have a responsibility to engage in conversations that shape and develop it at any level. Our voices mold the Internet into what we want it to be and this is why KeSIG is intent on introducing more diverse voices in Internet Governance discourses through this course. Therefore, any aspiring student should consider this as a free cheat sheet on how to join and successfully complete the KeSIG course because your voice is needed and it matters.
I hope this highlight of the behind-the-scenes workings gives you an insight into what to expect and inspires you to join the course. I wish you the very best of luck!
Cherie Oyier is a 2021 Kenya School of Internet Governance (KeSIG) fellow and is also an advocate of the High Court of Kenya practicing at Oyier and Company Advocates. She regularly publishes articles on issues falling at the intersection of law and technology via her LinkedIn account and is passionate about contributing to Internet Governance policy discourse.