International Women’s Day; Going Digital With ALL in Africa

International Women's Day Graphic

It’s the digital era and on another observance of International Women’s Day, attention is once again on the disproportionate levels of violence and discrimination women around the world face. The drive to pursue equality at all costs isn’t one to be overlooked as new platforms are being replaced with the old forms of violence.

The rise of technology has created another avenue for gender-based violence within the tech space. Threats, defamation and cyberbullying are becoming rampant, which can cause a downturn for career growth, despite the transformative nature of new media.

The 21st century has seen the emergence of an exciting range of technologies which are revolutionising the way we communicate. New advances in digital technology have created a landscape where surveillance, data-monitoring, hacking and filming are becoming more commonplace.
Women make up only 22% of artificial intelligence workers globally, making tremendous contributions to the digital space. With this, more inclusivity, research, innovation, and tackling the root causes of gender-based violence through investing in digital education, can help make the world a safer and more equitable place for women.

This year’s theme, “DigitALL: Innovation and Technology for Gender Equality.” focuses on the power of innovative technology in promoting gender equality by meeting the specific health and developmental needs of women and girls. Technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, e-commerce, to mention a few can be harnessed to ensure that all individuals enjoy equal access to economic opportunities, healthcare services, and digital education.

The popular saying, “train a woman, build a nation”, is seen in the lives of these African women who ventured into the digital space. It is only right to celebrate their achievements on yet another International Women’s Day.

Growing up in Ikeja, Lagos, Nigeria, Osayanmo Omorogbe, Co-founder and COO of Bamboo never had the intention of being an entrepreneur, let alone building a startup. Although she describes the journey towards building a Fintech startup as a series of lucky stumbles, she was well equipped to make the best of them.
Working with a private equity firm in Lagos spurred her interest in finance and investing which made her grow to becoming a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) holder — a professional designation considered the gold standard for financial analysts.

With that knowledge, she tried to get shares in companies like Apple and Google, but failed. This failure birthed Bamboo; a means for Nigerians to invest in foreign stocks from the comfort of their phones.

For Professor Muthoni Masinde, her startup ITIKI is rooted in the history of the Kenyan village where she grew up. Professor Masinde transformed ancient knowledge into a technology that has been of immense help to her people.

ITIKI, was built from the understanding of nature that her people have gathered through many generations. They could predict, almost accurately, what the weather would be by observing the demeanour of their cattle and the unique croaks of a toad that said the rain was coming.

Combining this with tech birthed ITIKI, which helps produce relevant drought forecasts for small-scale farmers in the most relatable way, via text messages in their local language. It informs these farmers if the weather will be favourable for their plants or not and what alternative plants can be grown instead.

As we celebrate the 2023 International Women’s Day, it is imperative that African governments and citizens support digital education as these skills are being used to develop applications that help communities, possibly helping to close the existing digital gender divide.

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