This year, the Africa Summit for Women and Girls in Technology was held in Accra, Ghana. Established in 2016, the summit aims to build partnerships, inspire women to develop and own technology, and scale successful initiatives. I was privileged and proud to represent Youth for Technology Foundation at the second summit whose theme was “Unlocking Africa’s Digital Future.”
We had different panel sessions which tackled issues such as policy engagement, leadership in technology policy, women and the web, and women advancing STEAMD. Policy engagement is important to set up the basic infrastructure into which meaningful programs can be established. Women should take the lead in positively influencing policy engagements in both the education and the technology sector.
According to the International Telecommucation Union (ITU), Girls are five times less likely to consider careers related to technology. Yet we know that there is no transformation without gender equality. We must ensure that women are at the forefront of the digital inclusion movement in order to bring about this change in the society. Internet access provides us with an opportunity to create awareness around issues of gender equality.
The session on women advancing STEAMD highlighted the need to advocate for a change in education curriculum. In the African society, the curriculum does not motivate girls to rise above stereotypes and myths. Kenya, a digital leader and with the highest rate of internet penetration in Africa, only has 1 in 4 STEM researchers being women, 7% women scientists, and 6% women engineers. In this digital age, the education curriculum should encourage girls to consider technology-related fields as their choice of career from a young age. It should include relevant examples that relate to women issues and their environment. This is why, in Kenya, Youth for Technology Foundation has partnered with Theirworld to launch Code clubs; a program which aims to build confidence and enhance creativity in girls through technology.
Three interesting workshops at the Summit were presented on community networks, enhancing digital security and advocacy for women and girls in Africa, and one entitled “Wikipedia Edit-a-Thon” which taught me a lot.
The community networks workshop highlighted the need for citizens to have a local network which they can manage themselves to meet their own communication needs. A case study scenario that was presented stated, “Imagine a woman with young children in a village – with/without access to internet on her mobile phone, receiving/not receiving important health related messages about a disease outbreak and a call to go to the clinic to get her children vaccinated.” These are some of the issues the community workshop tackled. Being an open infrastructure, community networks promote and increase internet penetration and digital tools in marginalized communities which are otherwise inaccessible.
The workshop on digital security emphasized the need for digital safety and security among internet users.
Finally, the Wikipedia Edit-a-Thon was an eye-opener. I learned so much about the fundamental principles of Wikipedia and the Wikimedia community.
I was privileged to attend all of these workshops and learned about the positive and negative effects of the internet on women. Increasing Internet access and connectivity for women will ensure they are able to seize opportunities to develop themselves intellectually, socially, and physically.
I left TechWomenAfrica2018 more motivated and inspired. To unlock Africa’s digital future, women should view technology as a tool of change that empowers them to address problems in society and build solutions which are relevant and can be used by the people those issues impact.
Rise up Women. Invent Technology. Create and Own Technology. Voice your mind.