Nelly Cheboi, 29, on Monday won 2022 CNN Hero of the Year for her effort toward digital literacy for Kenyan schoolchildren by creating computer labs.
This award seeks to recognize individuals who have an impact on society.
Nelly, who in 2019 quit a lucrative software engineering job in Chicago to concentrate on this initiative, was among this year’s Top 10 CNN Heroes and garnered the highest online votes becoming this year’s hero.
Through her non-profit organization, TechLit Africa, she has provided thousands of students across rural Kenya with access to donated, upcycled computers.
For the computers to be in good condition for use. the donated hardware is wiped, refurbished and distributed to partner schools in rural Kenya.
So far, 4,000 children aged between 4 and 12 years in the rural area have benefited through this initiative. The organization currently serves 10 schools, and Cheboi hopes to be partnered with 100 more by next year.
As CNN Hero of the Year, Cheboi will receive $100,000 or Ksh 12.3 Million to expand her work. Further, together with the other 10 top heroes honored at Sunday’s gala all receive a $10,000 cash award and, for the first time, additional grants, organizational training and support from The Elevate Prize Foundation through a new collaboration with CNN Heroes.
In addition, she will also be named an Elevate Prize winner, which comes with a $300,000 grant and additional support worth $200,000 for her nonprofit.
In 2012, Cheboi received a full scholarship to Augustana College in Illinois through Zawadi Africa to study computer science and began her studies with almost no computer experience.
For this reason learning became difficult as she handwrote papers and struggled to transcribe them on a laptop.
She said she never felt comfortable using a computer until her junior year when she took a Java course required for her mathematics major. She graduated in 2015.
Cheboi’s organization maintains online and onsite ownership of the computers, providing tech support, software updates and troubleshooting
TechLit Africa installs new customer operating systems geared towards children, and schools are asked to pay a small fee for the services, which includes TechLit educators’ onsite from 8am-4pm.