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Source: The Gambia YMCA

“Our people are yet to move away from the fear of over 22 years of dictatorial regime, from the fear of openly talking about current affairs or speak their mind." This is how APC's newest member, The Gambia YMCA Computer Training Centre and Digital Studio,* describes the current state of affairs in their country, where they try to effect change with their work.

Since its foundation in 1979, The Gambia YMCA has been involved in youth-related and development activities. With branches that now reach every region of the country, its overall aim remains unchanged: to develop the potential of Gambian youth so that they will be empowered with the necessary skills to live and operate in a global context."

In more recent years, information and communications technology (ICT) has come to play an ever greater role in the skills that young people need. In response to this, The Gambia YMCA Computer Training Centre was created in 1995. Its initial goal was "to train youths, mainly girls, on computer literacy proficiency in application software." Since then it has become a leader in The Gambia in offering ICT classes, consultancy, research on ICT, and customised ICT training, in addition to its digital studio

Among the projects that the centre is involved in, the online platform Barrow-meter stands out as a tool that enables citizens to be informed on yearly budgetary allocation and how the allocated budget is spent. In the words of project manager Baboucarr Ceesay, "During the past 22 years of rule, Gambians were misled and misinformed about current affairs. There were no proper accountability measures; the media was controlled and could not air public views that were constructive criticisms against the transparency of government spending on public funds." With this project, Ceesay and his colleagues aim to encourage citizens, especially youth, to "engage directly on what is happening within government."

Ceesay mentions the African Declaration on Internet Rights and Freedoms as a key reference for the centre's work. "This initiative is helping our country and other countries in the continent realise the need for internet laws and protection of citizens' rights online. We are witnessing increasing abuses in the form of blackmailing, stalking and cyber bullying, and awareness of our rights through the African Declaration has led The Gambia to draft an information bill that will hopefully contribute to promoting access and protecting privacy. We really believe that the Declaration has been instrumental in awakening Gambians to their rights online."

When asked about their joining APC, Ceesay responded that they hope to "build the capacities of their staff, expand their network and work with other individuals and organisations who share our passion for rights, by contributing to attain APC's vision." We warmly welcome them to our network.

* In August 2020 The Gambia YMCA Computer Training Centre and Digital Studio changed its name to Jokkolabs Banjul.

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