Funding scheme set to empower women in ICT in Africa

[KIGALI]  A project which was launched last year in Africa is set to empower young women and girls in computer science and help them become global leaders in information and communication technology (ICT), experts say.

The project, called ‘Seed Fund for Women + Girls in Computer Science’, is  aimed at extending technological entrepreneurship programmes and competition for young girls and women below 20 years old to set up technological enterprises, says Beth Garriott, a senior programme officer at Women Enhancing Technology (WeTech), the consortium managing the project.

The programme’s second seed fund application was opened this week (10 August), according to the US-headquartered Institute of International Education (IIE), which leads WeTech.

“WeTech [supports] a growing movement of innovative, women-focused technology initiatives gathering momentum across Africa.”

Trish Tierney, Institute of International Education (IIE)

Garriot says the first round of WeTech grants were awarded to 17 projects in 11 African countries — including Cameroon, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Uganda and Zambia — on 20 May, with each receiving funding worth US$2,000 to US$20,000.

WeTech has been supporting women and girls in computer science to enhance their skills to boost technological and economic growth, she adds.

Trish Tierney, the executive director of the IIE, tells SciDev.Net:

  “WeTech [supports] a growing movement of innovative, women-focused technology initiatives gathering momentum across Africa”.

Tierney explains that by supporting and linking the leaders behind this momentum, WeTech hopes to witness great potential for impact, getting more women and girls into the global technology industry.

Jean Philbert Nsengimana, Rwanda’s minister of youth and ICT, says supporting young women who are into ICT will help make them become job creators. He notes that Africa is desperate to develop fast, and science is the way to achieve the development.

Vanina Umutako, an educationist at the Gashora Girls Academy, a science and technology model school in Rwanda, says African scientists lack support to access better training to makes them innovative, and that exposing girls to ICT at an early stage is a welcome initiative.

 “Young girls at our school built an app during the Technovation Challenge [in Rwanda] recently,” adds Umutako, noting that the contest aims at providing an interactive platform to facilitate connection among students from different schools.  “It helps them share their understanding on different matters through easy and quick discussion on topics taught in class using smartphones as well as computers.”

Umutako explains that training girls and women to become innovative and helping them pursue ICT careers could help reduce Africa’s high unemployment rate and transform the continent.

Wilber Munyaneza, a Uganda-based ICT consultant, adds that young women in Africa need support at all levels in the use of ICT to attain sustainable growth.

This article has been produced by SciDev.Net’s Sub-Saharan Africa desk

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