Digital Shelter


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Over the past decade, Somalia been on a recovery and stability path and amidst a thorny political landscape and increased availability of affordable internet, youth are leading the way, with a technological revolution. With mobile phone penetration estimated at  51%, social media use is on the rise and with it, a generation of youth with a voice, active in mobilization and collaboration.

Taking advantage of this internet revolution and the growing number of youth joining the digital sector, Digital Shelter in collaboration with Institute of Innovation, Technology & Entrepreneurship (IITE) at Simad University conducted a three days capacity building workshop on digital entrepreneurship skills. The training was hosted at IITE’s learning center in Mogadishu, Somalia as part of Digital Shelter’s strategy to widen its network of stakeholder engagement in the technology sector. It brought together diverse group of 20 youth, alongside professional facilitators and experts that made the deliberations richer.

The training curriculum was specifically designed for youth involved in Small Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs), Startups and digital entrepreneurs, and explored how to effectively leverage the internet technology and the internet to grow their online business, widen their networks, while at the same time being informed about their digital rights.

Day one of the training was facilitated by Mohamed Okash from IITE’s innovation and leadership center and it was all about identifying social problems and generating startup ideas to social enterprise. The trainees were taught about Startup Life cycle which includes; problem identification, ideation, minimum viable product, investment, validation, growth and maturity. The trainees were also taught about how to incorporate these business models within the context of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which were adopted by United Nations general assembly in 2015. “I often use internet for personal stuff but now I know that it has whole different potential” said one of the participants.

Among the participants were female entrepreneurs like Zuhur, passionate basketball player who recently started an online stationery business. “We sell various stationary materials online and we deliver them to our customers even though we still have a challenge of delivery services,” said Zuhur.

Mariam Daleel a professional therapist is now thinking about setting up online platform where clients can receive her counselling sessions. “Sometimes you might even find that, for some reason, clients might feel comfortable when you are talking to them from distance especially those who live in remote areas,” she said.

As part of group exercises, trainees worked to develop business concepts based on the day’s learnings. The first group came up with a logistics company for importing goods from other countries for small scale traders through an online portal. Group two came up with an online gift shop called Hadiyad Shop as a one stop shop for all kinds of gifts for birthdays, weddings, anniversaries etc. Group three came up with online delivery business idea called “Shimbir Delivery” with a speciality in grocery delivery.

Day two of the training was facilitated by Ibrahim Isse, the Director of SMEs and Cooperatives at the Ministry of Commerce and Industry. Isse took the trainees through the legal procedures involved in starting up a business in Somalia. He also shared on local support facilities and incentives available to new small business, tax compliance and finally understanding licensing and regulatory requirements for registering and running online businesses.

Availability of opportunities such as financing SMEs and start-ups was highlighted as a key barrier to innovation. “I did not know I had access to all these business support services before today” said Abdishakur, who runs an online shoe store, at the end of the work shop. Tax relief, legal aid and business grants are some of the support systems that Isse highlighted to the trainees. In addition to this, he also presented detailed step by step process of business registration using the online portal created by the Ministry. “We want to facilitate and create an enabling environment for startups & entrepreneurs to thrive” he said, in conclusion to his session.

On day three, the topic was quite different but very interesting. Given the participant’s limited understanding of the digital rights and the fact that they are using the internet for their businesses it was seen as crucial to add the training component of digital rights with specific focus on privacy and data protection. The session was faciliatated by Digital Shelter’s Executive Director – Abdifatah Ali.

Abdifatah underscored the important of data security/protection in business and urged the youth not to undermine it. He shared  three general process of securing data;

  • Encryption
  • Strong user authentication
  • Data backup

Participants were informed that data protection is a growing concern for many small businesses around the world because of cyber-attacks and that majority of the entrepreneurs are not equipped to handle them.  Abdifatah explained that In 2016 alone, half of small businesses experienced a data breach and 55% experienced a cyber-attack according to a Ponemon Institute study. These cyber-attacks often lead to financial loss, damaged reputation and lost business, all of which are catastrophic to SMEs. The trainees were therefore educated on ways to minimize the chances of such attacks happening to them. Some of the tips given by the Digital Shelter team to protect them from cyber-attacks are;

  • Creating string passwords and updating them regularly
  • Using secure networks
  • Be cautious of external devices
  • Backing up data on multiple locations/devices
  • Limiting access to sensitive data
  • Knowing your digital footprint
  • Training employees and coworkers on online cyber threat and how to protect your data
  • Having a cyber plan

Beyond data protection and privacy, Abdifatah also presented on how digital technologies are transforming the way basic rights such as freedom of expression and accession to information are exercised, protected and violated. Other key issues covered in this session included universal and equal access, right to anonymity, right to be forgotten and intellectual property.

Abdifatah highlighted that recognition of the various rights online and offline required strong legislation to ensure effective digitalization efforts.



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