Black Tech Founder Named CNN ‘Hero of the Year’ for Empowering Kids in Africa With Digital Skills

Black Tech Founder Named CNN ‘Hero of the Year’ for Empowering Kids in Africa With Digital Skills

Imagine going from having no idea what a computer was when you were growing up, to being called a hero for building computer labs in rural classrooms. That’s what the 2022 CNN Hero of the Year, Nelly Cheboi, did.

Growing up in poverty in Mogotio, Kenya, the CEO and founder of Techlit Africa is on a mission to change the narrative of kids growing up in communities like hers. CNN reported that the Forbes 30 Under 30 tech founder, who “upcycles old computers to open new worlds for young Kenyans,” was selected among this year’s Top 10 CNN Heroes.

“My life is bigger than myself. If I have the power to change anything, I have to do it,” Cheboi said in a Video. “I have to give it my all and keep doing it.”

Cheboi will receive a $100,000 grant to expand her work in redistributing recycled technology, building more computer labs in African schools, recruiting more students, and hiring more local teachers. Additionally, she will be named an Elevate Prize winner, thanks to the Elevate Prize Foundation, which guarantees her a $300,000 grant and supportive valued services at $200,000 for her nonprofit.


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From living in a tin roof house with potholes to scavenging through trash cans for food, Cheboi’s story is penned with resilience.

It was during her full-ride scholarship to Augustana College in Illinois where she first discovered her passion for computer science. This ignited her to invest all of her income from various campus jobs into her community in Kenya. One of her ambitious efforts included building a school, called Zawadi.

After leaving a lucrative career in software engineering, Cheboi’s non profit, TechLit Africa, was born. The organization works to leverage the digital economy and unlock global opportunities for rural Africans.

“Every three years, companies are upgrading their IT. Most of these computers are ending up in landfills,” Cheboi said.

Today, Cheboi and her team at TechLit Africa are working with institutions, colleges, and individuals to donate computers to schools. They refurbish the tech and install custom operating systems that are geared towards teaching kids self-efficacy, troubleshooting, and internet skills.

From a remote class led by NASA and production, to coding and personal branding, Cheboi’s school strives to inspire about 4,000 students, ages four to 12, to take on a dozen careers with the skills necessary to tap into the global economy straight from the village.

“We believe that everyone deserves a level playing field, and that redistribution and adoption of technology is the most effective equalizer,” as stated on Cheboi’s LinkedIn.

“Our research leads us to believe that this will increase GDP, decrease unemployment and improve the quality of life for any African country we partner with.”