Sonya Konzak

Undergraduate student, Computer Engineering

Most of the children in rural Ghana don’t speak much English. One phrase they do know: digital divide. Undergraduate computer engineering student Sonya Konzak spent four months there in the summer of 2004, helping to bridge that gap.At home in Waterloo, Sonya served as president of the University of Waterloo chapter of Engineers Without Borders, an international development organization that promotes human development through access to technology. Every year, EWB sends student volunteers on internships abroad.

Sonya was placed with NewEnergy, a Ghanaian non-governmental organization. She was supposed to provide computer training for the staff and to co-ordinate the development of the website. She ended up doing much more.

“As the term progressed,” Sonya says, “I expressed an interest in doing training work with the local community. It turned out that NewEnergy was already considering applying my computer training to the local schools.”

Ghanaian children came from the countryside to the NewEnergy offices in Tamale. Sonya struggled to teach large groups using only one computer. Still, the children were excited. “They are aware of the potential computers have to change their lives,” she says, “yet they have no clue how this is manifested, much less how computers are used.”

Before she left Ghana, Sonya helped NewEnergy prepare funding proposals to create a sustainable study centre equipped with computers and offering computer training.