Women in Africa and ICT
By Wanjiru Kihusa
A few weeks ago, I attended the 6th Connected Kenya Summit. Connected Kenya is an annual IT event organized by Kenya ICT Authority. It brings together major ICT industry players and key government decision makers with an aim of establishing an avenue for collaboration, capacity building and knowledge sharing between government and the ICT sector.
As a blogger with an ICT background, attending this summit was a dream come true. I was of course excited by the networking opportunities that I would have but most importantly I wanted to see and hear what the Kenyan government felt about ICT. Needless to say, all my expectations were met.
I arrived in Diani, a beautiful town in the Kenyan South Coast, eager to experience the two day summit. It all started with the welcome plenary session that set the agenda for the summit, which was to look at the national and regional ICT agenda for 2014 and the place of digital leadership in government.
I had a great time, learning from every session I attended. Here is a statement that in my view summarizes the summit.
“ICT like steam power and electricity is an influential power driving the global economy” Andrew Waititu, Managing Director SAP Kenya
The networking opportunities were extremely exciting for me. I got to meet people I would probably never meet. What excited me the most though was a random conversation I had with a lady delegate in a cab on the way to our hotel. We were coming from one of the afternoon sessions, sat next to each other in the cab and struck conversation. We talked about how thrilled we were at the many women delegates in the conference. We remembered our campus days where ICT classes had so few girls. She mentioned she had studied computer science and in a class of 36 students only 6 were girls. I also shared that in my IT class, out of a total of 96 students only 12 had been girls!
This conversation was unique though; it was not one of doom and gloom. It was one of celebration. She said, “Of course the numbers cannot be 50/50. The men have had a head start. The most important thing is we’re catching up really well.”
“There is also an issue of quality as opposed to quantity” I said. “It is not how many women are now in (STEM) careers, the issue is how good are they?”
She looked thoughtful and said, “You’re right. We should not be easily satisfied by having more women in boardrooms than there were 20 years ago. We should make sure that they are great at their work and above reproach. That is what will inspire the young girls. ”
We soon arrived at the hotel and parted ways as we each went to freshen up in preparation for the evening cocktail hour and dinner.
As I walked to my room, I thought about that refreshing discussion. I decided to take it seriously. I looked at my life and decided to be as good at my job as I can. And that is my challenge to you. As good a conversation as it was, if it leaves us the same then it is a waste of time. We can decide to let it challenge us; to make us better.
Regardless of the field you are in, you should excel in it. You should give your work and life all you’ve got. It is in that, that you inspire other women, give hope to your country and to Africa.