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Rwanda’s women in tech: Leading the digital revolution

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When she was a little girl, Jeanne Yamfashije wanted to be a doctor. Her goal was to make her parents proud and serve her people.

The 29-year-old IT specialist did not become a doctor but she has certainly fulfilled her other wishes. For the past five years, Yamfashije has been working with a project that promotes science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) among girls in Rwanda.

The group, called Girls in ICT Rwanda, offers mentorships, boot camps and a competition to encourage innovation among students. The organization reaches 500 girls each year.

“I am serving my people by making sure that women reach where they want to be, especially in the area of IT,” she said.

“My message to young women is: ‘Always believe in yourself, work hard and smart to achieve what you want, and seek help. Walk away from your comfort zone … Become women with vision and goals.’”

Yamfashije is a graduate of the Carnegie Mellon University in Rwanda, a local branch of the technology-focused American institution.The university, which is being co-funded by the African Development Bank and the Rwandan government, aims to create Africa’s next generation of technology leaders, and encourages them to apply their highly sought-after skills where they are most needed: at home. Since the university opened its doors in 2011, 90% of its students have remained in Africa.
Sylvia Makario found her way to Carnegie Mellon after hearing about the school while she was completing the prestigious Mandela Washington Fellowship in the United States in 2015.

“I got drawn to Carnegie Mellon University Africa, particularly due to the pan-African vibe to it, which enables you to interact with different perspectives from various corners across the region and learn to collaborate to deliver solutions to cross-cutting issues in the continent,” she said.

Makario, who is Kenyan, co-founded Kigali-based data company Hepta Analytics in 2017, together with other graduates from Carnegie Mellon and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Hepta Analytics is a gender-balanced outfit, with 50% male and 50% female ownership. It wants to be part of the digital revolution in Africa, using data to help organizations reach their full potential.

One of Hepta’s greatest accomplishments was a product it designed for the Samburu Girls Foundation to assist women affected by genital mutilation. The RecReporter system connects callers to social workers via a toll free number and records messages as well as mapping the location of the caller for easier tracking within a certain radius.

Such undertakings have found fertile ground in Rwanda, which has established a ministry of ICT and innovation in order to position itself as a knowledge hub in this part of the world. The East African nation has also become a global leader in promoting gender equality, which is enshrined in legislation.

In November 2019, Rwanda will host the Global Gender Summit, a biennial event organized by multilateral development banks, including the African Development Bank.

Also Read Lillian Barnard: Tech Enthusiast And First Female Managing Director, Microsoft South Africa

Makario is looking forward to the opportunities on offer in Rwanda and elsewhere on the continent, such as the African Continental Free Trade Area, which envisions a borderless continent that would increase trade among its 55 states.

“My ultimate goal is to see businesses in the African continent use various tools to make quality decisions, based on data and not guesswork. We are working day and night to help more organizations reach that objective,” Makario said.

African Development Bank

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Post Covid-19: The social impact of 4IR enabling technologies on the African continent

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Tshiwela Ncube is the Co-Founder and COO at VUUQA.com

During this global pandemic, I have been thinking of how the world will change post corona. Will this pandemic thrust Africa into the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR)?

In this article, Tshiwela discuss the social impact that 4IR enabling technologies will have on the African continent and how they will assist in addressing various problems facing the continent mainly in the following sectors:

  1. Health–This sector will be impacted the most; technologies like AI will enable diagnosis where there are shortages of doctors and enable the inventory management of medication in rural areas.
  2. Agriculture – Technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT) have the power to enable African farmers to optimize productivity and reduce wastage through “precision farming” which relies on testing and data analysis to assist in the managing of field variations.
  3. Financial – 4IR will increasefinancial inclusion in Africa by enabling the unbanked to participate in the economy through retail electronic payments platforms and virtual savings and credit supply technological platforms. Technologies such as blockchain are providing the informal sector with opportunities to gain access to credit.

Also Read: Women in Tech: Interview With Ellen Fischat, Founder Story Room and Inspiring Fifty SA Ambassador

Most of these 4IR technologies have been implemented in Africa and many more are currently in testing phase. Africa continues to push innovation;however, a few challenges have the potential to impede the advancement of 4IR in Africa.

  1. Skills Deficit: To take full advantage of 4IR, Africa needs to invest heavily in cultivating the skills and capabilities of their labor force,lack thereof may result in job losses with technology replacing humans. When the labor is skilled it can work hand in hand with the technology.
  2. Infrastructure: Africa needs to improve its digital infrastructure in order to be able to access the advanced technology that enables 4IR. In countries like South Africa where data prices are expensive, the average man on the street can’t afford data therefore cannot connect to the internet affordably and easily.The result of poor digital infrastructure is that it reduces crucial connectivity which makes it difficult to effectively activate technologies like AI.
  3. Regulations: Africa needs to tighten and increase its cyber security to ensure the safety of people data and any possible fraud.Regulations should also be placed to enable African digital leaders to scale cross border, most especially with the new Continental Free Trade Agreement, this should be the time for Africa to align their processes and procedures in order to take full advantage of the rapid changes that 4IR is bringing.

4IR has the power to bring real fundamental social changes to Africa and to enable Africa to compete globally. It is up to African leaders to ensure that the environment is equip and conducive to forester such efforts. There was never a better time than now for Africa to move forward with the 4IR agenda and not only become a participant but a key player.

Article by: Tshiwela Ncube is an E-commerce thought leader, Co-Founder and COO at VUUQA.com

Visit: Vuuqa

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Facebook launches Tools to keep faith-based communities connected during COVID-19

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The tools are part of Facebook’s ongoing efforts in keeping communities safe, connected and informed during this pandemic

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa- Facebook has launched key resources to help faith groups stay connected and engaged during the current COVID-19 outbreak. The resources include the Faith on Facebook Resource Hub and the Faith on Facebook toolkit, both providing guidance and step-by-step tips that faith-based groups can use to keep their communities engaged while observing social distancing. The tools are part of Facebook’s ongoing efforts in keeping communities safe, connected and informed during this pandemic.

Download document: https://bit.ly/2VicyFs

Also Read: African academics launch initiative to collate COVID-19 data across Africa, call for volunteers

Some of the tools that faith-based groups can use to connect with their communities during the COVID-19 outbreak include:

  • Facebook Pages: Explore how to build an active and engaged audience of faith communities, advice on posting interesting content, as well as creating events and using Groups for discussions.
  • Facebook Groups: Groups allow people to come together around a common cause, discussing issues and ideas, posting photos and sharing related content.
  • Facebook Events: Host virtual events using Facebook Events to spread the word.
  • Utilising WhatsApp: Consider sending bite sized sermons or recordings through the voice note feature on WhatsApp to members, using either the dedicated broadcast list function or creating a New Group list.
  • Watch Party: Host a Watch Party for your Group, choosing videos that are relevant to your community and invite members to join and discuss.                                            
  • Facebook Live: Stream live stream events and performances on Facebook, utilizing interactive features such as reactions, shares and comments enabling you to further engage your audience.  

Commenting, Facebook Africa Regional Director Nunu Ntshingila said, “At a time like this, our mission has never been more relevant, to give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together. We know that faith leaders across Africa are grappling with the unexpected challenges in serving their members digitally, and we’re committed to providing them with the resources and tools to support them as much as possible”. She added, “Our ultimate goal is to equip faith-based communities with the tools to help them continue faith conversations throughout the pandemic.”

Credit: Facebook

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Zindi set to offer free hackathon and tailored online problem-solving sessions

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Cape Town based online data science competition platform Zindi will during the COVID-19 lockdown offer businesses free hackathon and tailored online problem-solving sessions.

Zindi recently launched a new hackathon space on its platform. The space will enable those companies with data science teams that are now working from home a private space to continue to upskill on problems that are important to their businesses while strengthening teamwork and cohesion in their free time, even while kilometres apart.

The offer comes in the wake of a 21-day lockdown imposed by the South African government with effect from 27 March.

Also Read: Women in Tech: Interview With Ellen Fischat, Founder Story Room and Inspiring Fifty SA Ambassador

“It really feels like we are stepping through that threshold that separates the world as we knew it from the uncharted territory that lies ahead. The situation is evolving rapidly and every day seems to bring new revelations about how COVID-19 might impact our lives, our economies, our companies, and our professional teams in the months and years ahead,” says Celina Lee, CEO Zindi.

“We realise that even during these challenging times, business doesn’t stop,” adds Lee.

“At Zindi, we also find ourselves having to adapt to the changing landscape. But we are driven by our mission to make AI accessible to everyone and every company. We see the current climate as an opportunity for our online community of over 12,000 data scientists to apply their skills to problems that matter most now, and to be an engine for productivity even during this unusual time,” says Lee.

“One thing this experience is teaching us is that physical location no longer matters. As an online platform, Zindi is uniquely positioned to harness the power of data scientists around the world to keep businesses and teams going during these challenging times. As a support to you, our valued partners, we’re pleased to offer you a free hackathon for your data science team or an online problem-solving session tailored for your business. Remember, we’re all in this together,” she adds.

ZINDI

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