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Taking our learnings from lockdown in Uganda, into the new year

Thea Sommerseth Myhren
January 1, 2021

2020 is coming to an end and the time has come to share how it’s really been. Authenticity and transparency are the cornerstones of my leadership philosophy. It’s essential that access to the day to day goings of start-up life is shared in a globalised environment, more so during a global pandemic.

There have indeed been challenges, especially as an entrepreneur, the ripple effect of a struggling market can have high consequences. The pandemic has also completely shifted my personal way of life. The time that I have spent in transit of trains, plains, or time zones has vanished. Which has truly given space to the mind and more insight. To be able to ask the important questions and understand what the real challenges we are facing truly are.

I have lived with my co-founder Marina for a year here in Uganda now, through lockdown and curfew restrictions. We have been privileged, from hoarding food and toilet papers. Freezing vegetables to the laugh of Ugandans. Food is in abundance, the market is however not. Is the hardest reality to see, it’s not the limitations of resources in this country. It is the facilitation and inequality of who has access to which standard.

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As an entrepreneur one is used to extreme uncertainty. It’s been normal now for the past 4 years of my and my team’s life. Not knowing how long I can stay where. Or when I need to jump on a plane to capitalize on an opportunity. I chose to stay here in Uganda this year for one reason. You don’t leave just because it’s hard or challenging. You stay, learn, listen, and build trust. As expected there were very few expatriates left here in Uganda. This gave us a unique opportunity to build key relations for the business moving forward. The unity of sticking something out as a collective is from my perspective a lost skill in our modern society.

This enabled us to see the true reality of the population and their culture’s mentality. What do you do when there is supposedly nothing you can do. As expected, my co-founder Marina and I have seen how the community has moulded and adapted. How there always is a way as long as you have patience.

Distance learning, remote working, and social distancing have also become the ‘new normal’ due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now more than ever is the time for institutions and employers to embrace tools for digital learning, assessment, and verification. In Diwala we have done qualitative studies to analyse the consequences of the COVID-19 in Uganda and countries with large outbreaks. The results highlight the need to not just think with a #catchup ideology. We need to think forward.

This is why I believe the discussion needs to think to understand that availability is nothing without impact. I see the most prominent challenges to be:

1. Affordability- the cost of data affects students’ accessibility.

2. Applicability — Inequality and lack of new ways of assessment and curriculum design to geographic needs.

3. Applicability — an adaptation of software needs to be assessed with a holistic systemic view. Outdated or centralized systems increase bureaucracy and limit our opportunity to generate data insights.

We will also continue to drive the path of Decentralized technology forward. It’s more challenging, but our ethics and passion also run with the technology infrastructure that we build with.

I feel blessed to have expanded the team with amazing new people and see how we are now even more connected and aligned. They say great challenges stretch your reach, which is exactly how I feel personally and about the Diwala team. This year served an important purpose and I am fuelled up with a different kind of energy. I am truly excited about what is to come!

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Read more in-dept about our the product and business progress we made in 2020 in our previous article https://www.diwala.io/post/2020-looking-back-at-the-year-that-was

Best Wishes
Thea Sommerseth Myhren