Women Techmakers Uyo: Repositioning the Girl Child for Tomorrow’s Challenges

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Women Techmakers Uyo
A panel session during the event where important issues affecting Women in Technology were discussed

If there is anything that has kept us where we are as a people, I feel it is impudence. I think our leaders are not inclusive enough in their decisions except they see the immediate gains on whatever they do. Such gains most times are financial and immediate – maybe just why they get so broke, once they are out of political office. Leaving a name behind on what I will term “the rocks of time”, is never a priority and so once you give a suggestion that does not tally with what they aim at for making immediate money, you are tagged an enemy of that administration.

That has been my fate in recent times.  While the former commissioner for Science and Technology reigned in the ministry I had suggested a larger space be given to techies – maybe through Start Innovation Hub, at the Ibom e-library. The Commissioner had objected and that had pitched me against the administration at the ministry until Professor Essien assumed office. However, with Mark Essien of hotels.ng collaborating, the present administration had given the said space to Start Innovation Hub for the hotels.ng internship program. This was highly commendable. But then, this could be regarded as a seed and more is needed since presently we have more than 6 hubs in the state and many startups are springing up, maybe due to the “dakkada” spirit that is sweeping through the state.

Women Techmakers Uyo
Participants at the event pose for a group photograph in front of the Ibom e-Library

However, another great event was held at the Ibom e-library on Friday the 27th of April, 2018.  It was the Women Techmakers event.  Women Techmakers is a program created by Google to celebrate International Women’s Day and to highlight the talent of women in technology. Driven by the belief that a diversity of perspectives leads to better decision-making and more relevant products, Google began Women Techmakers in 2012, helmed by former Google[x] Vice President Megan Smith. Women Techmakers is a global program that celebrates women, encouraging them to pursue and excel in technology careers.

“Our goal is to inspire passionate, creative women through discussions with thought leaders, technical workshops, design sprints and networking opportunities,” said Natalie Villalobos, Google’s Women in Technology Advocate leading Women Techmakers. “Overall, we aim to tear down the boundaries inhibiting women from participating in the industry.” To accomplish this, Google created a global event series for International Women’s Day. Women at all levels are encouraged to participate in Women Techmakers – from CEOs and founders to designers and developers or beginners in any technology-related role. The team believes that no matter your background, career, organization or identity, you are welcome in the industry, and they want to help you find what you need to be successful. Google Developers Group in Uyo powered by Start Innovation Hub therefore celebrated this event on the 27th of April which was Friday last week.

Women Techmakers
Damilola Omoyiwola, Co-founder Budgetier App that won the 1st Position during the StartUP Friday Uyo recently was on ground to inspire the women.

One thing that drew me to the event was to encourage young people – especially women, who are practicing tech in the Akwa Ibom ecosystem.  Most times when I attend such event I will have time to share my experience with one or two of the participants encouraging them never to give up as the future belongs to tech practitioners and enthusiasts. But then, another important thing that takes me to these events is to understand deeply where we are in tech and what we can do as a people and as a government to encourage the development of the tech industry in the State.

Sad enough, our commissioner for women affairs seems not properly informed of such events and scanning through the participants and speakers, I couldn’t spot the representatives or even the commissioner for women affairs at the event.  It became more worrisome when I asked one of the lead organizers if the ministry of women affairs who organizes an event regularly had ever ordered food from a widely used food delivery app “afropot”, the answer as expected was in the negative. These and other issues are the more reason I have decided to do this article on this column today.

Women Techmakers
With proper programmes put in place we can catch them young.

First of all, I want to fault the information officers at the Ministries who are supposed to relate with developers and techies in the State. Why I hold this resentment for this set of civil servants is that I believe they are supposed to be the bridge between the communities and the government. As a developer, I know how many hours one has to put into writing codes for the development of software; therefore it is often very difficult to pursue the business and political aspect of software development almost singularly.

The business aspect of software development is the ability of getting your software across to relevant users while the political may consist of letting leaders at various levels know what is happening in the tech ecosystem.  In most cases where the commissioners do not give a listening ear to such developments, it is hard to even summon courage to forward a proposal citing the need to develop such blueprints that will help the development of the tech ecosystem even in such administration as we have today in Akwa Ibom where entrepreneurship is highly encouraged.  This is where the information officers should come in.

The information officer in such ministry as Women Affairs and Science and Technology should as a matter of urgency build a two way communication system to help tech communities thrive. This should be done by gradually seeking information from techies and developers in the state and communicating same to leaders in government for effective action.  This may not be within their jurisdiction as regards their job description, but since the need has arisen, it is paramount such mode of communication is established within the government information system. Presently what we have is the feeding of information from one end where we read about the activities of the ministry while the activity of the tech ecosystem is rarely communicated back to relevant authorities for prompt actions.

Women Techmakers Uyo
Emem Brownson, Founder AfroPot and Team Lead, Women Techmakers Uyo (middle on glasses) pose with participants during the event

This mode of information dissemination will not only help keep government officials abreast  of what is happening in the tech ecosystem in Akwa Ibom State, but will help the government to model plans on how to fund and support the ecosystem.  This should be our concern for the girl child in Akwa Ibom State and the entire Niger Delta zone.  With the right information put in place, more girls and women will be encouraged to go into tech as a career, building sophisticated applications that will proffer solutions to the Akwa Ibom tech ecosystem.

The Commissioner for Science and Technology and his counterpart in women affairs should develop a listening ear to the problems facing the Akwa Ibom tech ecosystem and be ready to offer solutions to the existing problems in the ecosystem.  The ministry of women has only to come in since the girl child is involved. The ministry for education should not also be left out in the development of relevant curriculum that will help young people embrace tech as a career even while they are in their secondary schools.  This is one of the surest ways to build a sustainable blueprint for the Akwa Ibom tech ecosystem.  If Google as an organization could impact on our girls through the Women Techmakers event, I am optimistic that our government can do more to encourage young girls go into tech as a career by supporting great innovations therein. The best time to have planted a tree was 50 years ago; the second best time is now. Techforest has however been canvassing for the Development of a Blueprint for ICT Innovation in Nigeria Niger Delta region.

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