News Alert: Finalist! Our Miss.Africa Digital programme Named ITU EQUALS in Tech Award finalists
The awards are part of the EQUALS Global Partnership, a network of more than 50 partner companies and organizations working together to bridge the digital gender divide, and co-founded by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), UN Women, the International Trade Centre, GSMA and the United Nations University.
This year, there were 293 participants from 72 countries for the EQUALS in Tech Awards. From these, 15 finalists including our Miss.Africa digital program were selected representing the most innovative and inspiring initiatives working to bridge the digital gender divide. A winner was then selected in each of the three categories by an expert panel of EQUALS partners and previous winners.
Miss.Africa Digital, a Pan-African programme to promote digital skills for women across the continent, was named as a finalist for the Equals in Tech Awards. Here is a blog featuring the program, reproduced from ITU News
ITU News recently caught up with Sophia Bekele, the Founder and CEO of DotConnectAfrica (DCA) Group, a Kenya based organization that runs the Miss.Africa program and administers the Seed Fund grants and awards.
She explains what Miss.Digital Africa is all about in the Q&A below. Click here for full article on ITU News (http://news.itu.int/
1. Can you tell us about this project that has been nominated for the EQUALS in Tech Awards?
The Miss.Africa Digital program is the first Pan African initiative to support women in technology. It is private trust that aims to encourage African women all across the continent to embrace technology while developing a range of skills.
Our most popular Miss.Africa Annual Seed Fund competition is run Africa-wide, and provides grants to women and girls that have submitted original projects in the STEM fields. The grant assists these women to launch or further support their own initiatives.
The Seed Fund competition program is in its third year and has had a meaningful impact in Madagascar, Kenya, Cameroon, Ethiopia and Nigeria.
2. What are some of the challenges you are trying to address with your project?
The Miss.Africa Digital Program aims to develop hands-on solutions to Africa's many needs through innovation and technology inclusion.
Our approach is to first bridge the digital gender divide by providing girls and women with skills that give them the ability to develop intelligent local solutions to their everyday challenges. These are often the solutions society needs for sustainable development.
By funding initiatives that empower women in far-flung areas in Africa, we also encourage local skills development and reduce migration to cities.
Employment and revenue-making opportunities are still few in many parts of Africa. Many students leave university with no employment opportunities. Our program aims to inspire self-employment.
3. How are you bringing innovative approaches to these problems?
The Miss.Africa Digital programme leverages available technologies to expand its outreach and runs a number of communications activities and training programs, such as:
a) Sharing success stories and experiences of women-in-tech through Miss.Africa Voices (http://dotconnectafrica.org/
b) Echoing these voices through multilingual social media platforms, weekly ICT digests and periodic newsletters that run in English, French and Arabic.
c) Providing women with rigorous ICT training, internet literacy and life skills through our in-house digital academy internship program.
d) Encouraging the involvement of women in the STEM disciplines through the annual Seed Fund competition.
e) Enabling the winning start-ups and early stage initiatives to have access to private equity investments and to grow and monetize their business plans through an innovative business incubation program we aim to start next year.
4. Can you explain why skills for women in tech is so important?
An African proverb states, 'If you educate a woman, you educate a family (or nation)'. Skills in tech for women are important because women bring an important perspective.
According to the World Economic Forum, women hold only 26 percent of all tech jobs. If current gender gap trends persist, women are at risk of losing out on tomorrow's best jobs and entrepreneurship opportunities.
Skills development can help women increase their individual opportunities through increased job placement and entrepreneurship, leading to gender equality and economic development.
5. How does it feel to gain international recognition from ITU and UN Women for your work?
Miss.Africa Digital programme is greatly excited and honored to be selected as a finalist by ITU and UN Women out of a pool of nearly 300 nominations from around the globe.
We feel inspired and encouraged to continue leading and innovating to increase the number of women in tech and accomplish our mission of bridging the STEM gap in Africa.
We trust that the experiences we share from our current cohorts and alumni will reveal how developing the digital skills of women and girls. Our partners and supporters will also be motivated to do more to keep our programs alive.
Sophia Bekele is the Founder and CEO of DotConnectAfrica (DCA) Group, a Kenya based organization that runs the Miss.Africa program and administers the Seed Fund grants and awards. Full interview: http://news.itu.int/
Miss.Africa Digital Program was among 15 Finalists in three categories. The 2017 winners were announced yesterday (https://www.equals.org/