September 22, 2016

2016 LiFT Scholarship Winner Yasin Sekabira: Open Source Entrepreneur

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Kampala, Uganda
2016 LiFT Scholarship Winner Yasin Sekabira is from Kampala, Uganda.

Yasin Sekabira is a graduate of the computer science program at Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda, where he taught himself Linux through the free Intro to Linux course on edX and other online resources. He was one of 14 aspiring IT professionals to receive a 2016 Linux Foundation Training (LiFT) scholarship, announced last month.  

He is in the process of bootstrapping a startup and a technology hub to introduce technology to local children who do not have access to computer science education.


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Yasin Sekabira
Yasin Sekabira is a 2016 LiFT scholarship winner in the Linux newbies category.

Linux.com: Can you tell me more about Kampala?

Yasin Sekabira: Kampala is Uganda’s national and commercial capital city, and it’s a hotbed for young tech entrepreneurs and independent business people. I was born and grew up in KATWE, one of Kampala’s finest suburbs and a center of many DIY technicians, craftsmen and artisans.

Linux.com: What kind of technology training is available?

Yasin: Kampala is surrounded by an increasing number of higher institutions of education offering technology-based degree courses, and short professional courses. Plus, there are also tech business incubators that have done a great job, helping university students to really work on interesting projects. Through these hubs, most students have turned their ideas into tech startups to fully funded tech businesses.

I’m currently working hard on my hub Katwe COLAB. In KATWE, many young men resort to minor theft and it grows from there. Many kids drop out from school mainly due to fees and bad urban tribes. And I just wish the Hub can change that through technology innovation.

Linux.com: What kind of business is your new startup?

Yasin: We are iterating in search of that Facebook Million Dollar idea. But our business is focused at the moment on designing and developing Mobile/Web Apps and providing IT Consultancy to our clients.

Linux.com: How did you start it?

Yasin: It all started back in the hood, in Katwe where I grew up, many young men are independent business owners, I grew up really with these big dreams to follow the lead. Then we were lucky: our big brother bought us an IBM Pentium 3 Desktop PC. I loved it. It changed our thinking. I played a lot of games and really learned how to use a computer, then my other brother had just finished form six (high school), in his vacation he joined a small institution to learn computer networks, then luckily he taught me IP addressing. I was just 14 years old.

Then my brother figured out how to make money with computers and he started a Computer Repair Workshop. It was fun, it paid us, and we established ourselves. This helped me to start, in 2011 during my first year at college, an internet café and it helped shape my little admin skills. I didn’t focus on it very much. College was fun and I fell in love with programming and Linux. The splash screen during booting blew my mind, and I jumped on the OpenSuse wagon.

And then in 2012 me and my buddy won the Orange innovation awards from the French telecom, Orange, which sold their Ugandan stake to Africell in 2014. Orange Uganda organized innovation awards every year for the most impressive ideas in mobile app development. These awards allowed young developers in Uganda to suggest an innovative application that could be used in agriculture, health, or education. The award came with a stipend and an internship at the telecom giant. Plus, lessons on how to do a legal entrepreneurial business and ace your startup.

We started a business, but doing a startup is not romantic. It takes commitment. Long hours of work, money problems, all of these things force you to get employed and maybe do a startup part-time. Especially in UG where tech is still in its infancy. Many people are changing slowly, and change takes some time. You have to be patient and stay focused.

Linux.com: How do you plan to use your LiFT Scholarship?

Yasin: Being a LiFT Scholarship 2016 recipient on paper is like a dream come true. It’s an opportunity to work even harder, train harder, and stay competitive in what you really do best,

Today open source and Linux are absolutely up there in the top, it’s an opportunity to sharpen my open source skills from newbie to Ninja Pro. With The Linux Foundation and Linus Torvalds, you just feel like you’re learning and mastering Kung fu from Bruce-Lee.

The LiFT Scholarship will help me to prepare for my LFCE (Linux Foundation Certified Engineer), and hopefully pass it and add it to my belt. The LFCE badge really shows the world that you can play like Messi or Score like T.Henry of Arsenal.

Linux.com: How will it help you advance your start-up?

Yasin: I think I always wanted to work on an open source project, and down in my mind I always felt like I don’t have the skills. With the LiFT Scholarship, it has motivated me ever since I received the mail that I was a winner of the LiFT Scholarship 2016. Since then, I have been reading a lot and I think I’m leveling up. I just feel the energy, and hopefully I can tinker with any open source project at my start-up.

Secondly, I think LiFT Scholarship will help me to pimp my Katwe CoLAB that I’m recently working on and hopefully inspire the next generation in KATWE to think differently.

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