Women in Tech Africa, a Ghanaian group that focuses on entrepreneurship and career leadership to increase the number of women in technology, received the 2018 Leadership I Award at the EQUALS in Tech Awards, held recently at the Yale Club in New York City, USA.
The annual EQUALS in Tech Awards recognise the innovation and creativity of global initiatives promoting the inclusion of women and girls in the tech sector and in internet access. Women in Tech Africa’s methods include encouraging women to pursue technology careers; pushing for more tech leadership positions for women; creating a STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) career pipeline for women; and encouraging women to explore entrepreneurial opportunities in STEM.
“Women in Tech Africa was founded over 5 years ago… with the ambition of providing a platform for women of African descent in the technology space where they can support, peer learn and share experiences.” Said, Ethel Cofie, founder of Women in Tech Africa.
Andrew Sullivan (CEO of the Internet Society) and Arancha González (Executive Director of ITC) co-presented the award to Women in Tech Africa, who were among four other winners.
This year’s 22 EQUALS in Tech Award finalists stood out particularly from among 357 nominations from 80 countries. They were chosen by an advisory group of former winners and experts from the EQUALS Steering Committee, comprising leads of the three Equals Coalitions—Access, Skills and Leadership—co-founders and financial contributors. The 2018 EQUALS in Tech Awards were supported by the Internet Society, Verizon, the Swiss Federal Office of Communications and Germany (BMZ/GIZ).
“The EQUALS in Tech Awards are really driving the recognition of diversity in tech and I’m so pleased to be part of it! The winners this year are hugely inspiring…. The level of connectedness that these platforms provide is exactly what we need in this current world of segregation.” Said 2018 awards host, Jayde Lovell.
The other four winners include:
Mats Granryd, Director General of GSMA, presented the 2018 Access Award to Khabrona.info, a Mercy Corps initiative in Jordan that has developed a website and mobile application that provide refugees—particularly women—with reliable and trustworthy information critical to their security and self-reliance. For example, users can connect digitally with humanitarian officers without compromising their safety.
The 2018 Skills Award was presented by ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao to Laboratoria for their initiative entitled, Giving women from underserved backgrounds a career in tech. The social enterprise gives young women across Latin America the technical and life skills they need to become self-sufficient web developers and professionals. The training is free of charge, requiring women to pay only once they have successfully been placed in a job in the tech sector. Laboratoria maintains training centers in Guadalajara, Lima, Mexico City, Sao Paulo and Santiago, and has trained nearly 1 000 graduates to date.
Introduced for the first time to acknowledge the efforts of tech companies to bridge the gender digital divide, the Leadership II Award was presented by Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women, to New York-based SAP Next-Gen, a global, purpose-driven innovation university and community linked to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. The organization aims to make innovation and technology work better for young women and girls by working with international organizations, universities, start-ups, accelerators and local communities to foster the next generation of female social entrepreneurs and digital leaders.
The Research Award—a new awards category—recognizes initiatives producing rigorous research and reliable evidence on the gender digital divide. David Malone, Rector of the United Nations University, presented the award to AfterAccess, which brings together a network of researchers to complete a large-scale data collection effort that will allow—for the first time—accurate comparison of gender digital divide information in the Global South.
Even though the event doesn’t offer a cash prize, the winners receive a paid trip to the awards ceremony and they also get to meet and mingle with like-minded entrepreneurs, investors, activists, teachers, and leaders. And they join an Advisory Panel that chooses future award winners. The five winners join a growing community of former EQUALS in Tech Award recipients united in one goal: to reimagine a digital future where women and girls are equals.
Reacting to the growth of the awards, Andrew Sullivan, President and CEO, Internet Society, said, “To make the Internet for everyone, we need everyone involved. We recognize the five winners of this year’s EQUALS in Tech Awards for their contributions to a world where equal opportunity exists for women and girls. They are helping to make sure everyone can have a voice in our digital future.”
Closing Africa’s mobile connectivity gender gap is in the industry’s best interest
According to the GSMA, closing the gender gap represents a substantial commercial opportunity for the industry. If mobile operators in low- and middle-income countries could close the gender gap in mobile ownership and mobile internet use today, this would generate an estimated incremental revenue of $15 billion over the coming year.
According to the GSMA’s Mobile Gender Gap in 2018 research Women in Sub-Saharan Africa are 14 pc less likely to own a mobile handset, being beaten out of the top spot by South Asia where women are 26 pc less likely to own a mobile handset. The gender gap is not going to close on its own. Its root causes are driven by a complex set of social, economic and cultural barriers. These obstacles can only be overcome with targeted intervention by all stakeholders.
“It’s not a simple task, but it is imperative that we meet the challenge head-on. With concerted action and by working together, we can make significant strides to address the gender gap,” said Yasmina McCarty, Head of Mobile for Development at the GSMA.
According to the GSMA, in order to close the mobile gender gap we need to address issues of gender equality and social norms and focus on:
Accessibility- including to quality network coverage, handsets, electricity, agents and formal IDs;
Affordability- including handsets, tariffs, data and transaction fees;
Usability and skills- including of handsets and services and addressing a lack of awareness and understanding;
Safety and security- including addressing harassment, theft, fraud and data protection;
Relevance- of policies, content, products and services.