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Community Spotlight: Solomon Kitumba and Benjamin Lutaaya Kiyita

June 2nd, 2015

For our June community spotlight, we’d like to highlight the efforts of two men in Uganda who are working hard to grow their local community and bring more university students into the Drupal fold. In 2014, the two were awarded a Community Cultivation Grant for their Uganda University Drupal Tour program, which will be discussed in today’s spotlight.

For close to three years, Solomon Kitumba(solomonkitumba) and Benjamin Lutaaya Kiyita(benjaminkyta) of Kampala, Uganda, have been working with Drupal. Solomon, a Drupal front end developer, owns Kyta Labs, a mobile and web app development company. Benjamin, a Drupal Dev Ops and UI/UX Developer, is active both in the local Drupal community and in the local Linux community as well. Both men share a fascination with open source, and encountered the same obstacles when learning Drupal — which led them to team up and forge a better path for other Ugandans.

Initially, both Solomon and Benjamin learned Drupal software through online tutorials found on Lynda.com and YouTube, and through free eBooks as well. One struggle that the two bumped up against — and still struggle with — is the lack of a physical space where their local community can come together to teach new Drupalers, learn from each other, and give each other support.

"One of the biggest challenges we have faced is a lack of collaborative space where drupalers can meet daily,” said Solomon.” In our city, there’s nowhere where we can work on solutions together and learn from each other. There are a couple of these places for mobile developers, but we lack one for web people in Kampala.

“We’ve used our Drupal careers to create a presence in the local tech industry,” said Solomon by email. “People know who to talk to if they want to discuss Drupal and getting paid to develop using Drupal. Initially, our local community was pretty inactive. There were a few people who knew how to use Drupal, but lacked the force and momentum to get good attendance at events and meetups. We’ve been working to attract more people, like site builders and module developers, and we’ve seen a lot of growth in our local community because of it."

And how have the two grown the Drupal community in Uganda?

“We started doing some outreach to use local universities as meeting spaces, but they’re so far from the main city that it became very costly. Getting together outside of the city means dealing with expenses like hotel fees, transportation costs, and a few other things, and those costs would put our projects at a standstill in times when we can’t afford it."

However, the outreach to nearby universities — though expensive — has its benefits. “We’re doing a lot of work to get university students interested in Drupal while they are still at school. Students have a lot of time available to learn new things, so we put together a Drupal University tour that we are still conducting, and so far it has been very well received."

For Solomon and Benjamin, the university tour seemed like a natural extension of the work they’d been doing at local meetups.

"We got the idea from the tech meetups we attended in Kampala that were also attended by university students in the same field. They were all curious about the platforms we use to build our online technologies, and we told them about Drupal. After the meetups they knew it was a CMS and a few of them could even install it — but that was it. We asked ourselves how we could help these students learn Drupal more easily, which led us to the idea of holding training through the major universities in Uganda. And for us, it just made sense to call the campaign the Drupal University Tour."

Planning the University Tour was no easy task: the duo encountered no small amount of hesitation from universities, and came up against financial obstacles as well. “We started off by writing down the things we would need, and figured out from there how we would hold the trainings — what we would teach specifically, and so on. Then, we started communicating with the department heads of the universities we wanted to train at. Some of them were hesitant at first, but eventually they accepted our proposal.

"When we were preparing the tour, we realized that we needed funding for the whole campaign. The universities weren't ready to financially facilitate our sessions, so we applied for the Drupal Community Cultivation Grant. Through it, we were awarded $1,488 USD, and we were able to kick off the tour."

The two knew that, for maximum efficacy, they’d have to go to a number of different schools to speak to as many students as possible. So they decided to go to the best schools in the country. “We went to all the major universities in Uganda. Makere University, Kampala International University, Kyambogo University, and Mbara University of Science and Technology were all on our list. Because of scheduling conflicts, we weren’t able to run the tour in the timeframe we had planned, but we eventually made it. And, we managed to have a little money left over — about $50 USD, which was enough for us to go to another institution called Datamine Technical Institute. So they were able to benefit from the campaign as well,” Solomon concluded.

The Drupal University tour has been a big success, the two felt.

“We spent a day teaching the students about Drupal itself as a software. We taught them about making contributions to the development, such as by submitting code to the project. We also emphasized the power of both the local and global Drupal communities, and discussed what a big benefit it is,” Solomon said. “We talked about how to share resources with people in the Drupal community, and how we can mobilize both locally and internationally to help people learn Drupal and organize training."

We couldn’t be more thrilled and grateful for the work that Solomon and Benjamin have done. We often hear conversations about the difficulties of bringing new talent into the Drupal community, and the work that Solomon and Benjamin have done is invaluable, both for their local community and for the wider Drupal world. Thank you for your work!