Guielle Gildas

"Our dream is to create the African Silicon Valley."

Gildas-Guiella, founder of Ouagalab – a coworking space dedicated to empowering youth through technology and computer programming, sits in the Ouagalab co-working space in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, 11 March 2016.

Changemaker Guiella Gildas
is co-founder of Ouagalab, a space for young people to access and learn about digital tools.

Launched in 2011, Ouagalab provides an enabling space for young people to access and learn about digital tools, no matter their resources or level of skill. It is also a meeting place and incubator for innovation, prototyping and collaboration, and is intended to stimulate entrepreneurship – especially ideas for social companies.

This close-knit culture of sharing and developing digital know-how creates a ‘collective intelligence’, as Guielle calls it. He believes that collaborative work amongst young people supports a country’s sustainable development and will ultimately reinvent the continent’s future. He dreams of establishing Ouagalab as Africa’s Silicon Valley.

‘Places like Ouagalab will take forward the digital economy in Africa. This is happening in places where young people are using what little resources they have to be able to do big things.

‘When children achieve something, it’s like releasing a genie from a bottle. They feel that anything is possible and that they can do even more. When you have a passion from a very early age, you strive to find out all about it and reveal the mystery surrounding it,’ enthuses Guielle.

Cultivating a digital culture

After finishing school, Guielle was unable to pursue his own passion for electronics as no tertiary institution in his country offered that specialisation. Instead, he trained in IT and telecoms.

‘I didn’t get a computer until quite late because my parents couldn’t afford one. I’m sure there are thousands of children who have had to wait even longer than I did or who have never had one,’ says Guielle.

This is why he asserts that old IT equipment should be reused and not discarded as waste. Knowing that many children do not have access to computers, Guielle refurbishes old equipment – alongside young people – in order to set up IT rooms at their schools.

Guielle is also passionate about open source software, seeing it as a leveler between those who do not have the means to buy software and those who do. Removing obstacles to young people’s use of digital tools is a priority.

‘We need to implement actions that enable other people to find their voice. This is why we like using these digital tools with children, so they can they grow up believing there are no obstacles,’ adds Guielle.

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