27.04.2016 - UNESCO Office in Dakar

Tech Needs Girls: A Dream, A Reality!

@UNESCO

« My name is Aida Mansour Lo. I’m 24 years old, and I’m Senegalese. With Khadidiatou Mbacke, Nellya Maylis Zohoun, and Boury Tounkara, who are more than just awesome developers – they’re my close friends - I developed a mobile application for land management in Senegal called SIGESTES. We are all computer programmers with a focus on applied business management in ICTs, and studied in Gaston Berger University in Saint Louis, Senegal. This training allowed us to learn about the world of ICTs and encouraged us to become not only consumers of new technology, but producers who innovate and revolutionize. »

Aida, along with her friends and 20 other young girls from Senegal and Benin, are participants in the Jiggen CI TIC competition, held at UNESCO the 23rd and 24th of April in the framework of UNESCO’s YouthMobile and Senegal’s JifTIC Initiatives. The competition, organized jointly by UNESCO and the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications of Senegal with the support of Sonatel and Google, is intended to encourage young girls to develop mobile applications that address pressing issues related to sustainable development.

According to recent research by the Regulation Authority of Posts and Telecommunications of Senegal, 94.9 percent of internet connections in the country happen through mobile phones. With a population estimated at 14.8 million people, close to 15 million SIM Cards are in active circulation in the country, according to the Regulation Authority.

Given the high circulation of mobile lines in Senegal, and the equally high rate of internet use through mobile, mobile applications play a particularly important role in ensuring access to crucial information that further ensures local development challenges are addressed in innovative ways. « Recently widely available for Android and IOS, mobile apps make daily life easier and make information available in a user-friendly way. An ideal that we try to adapt – and would like to be successful at - to all possible situations for everyday life » underlines Aida.

In the framework of the competition, 7 teams of young women participated, developing various mobile applications related to land management, education, health, and urbanization. With a focus on training participants in mobile app development using open source software and tools, an additional focus was placed on ensuring young women have the information and tools necessary to develop sustainable business strategies and register their companies. Having a good idea for a mobile app is only one part of the entrepreneurial process: the next step is to transform these ideas into a sustainable company. Many great ideas in tech in general, and Senegal particularly, don't come to fruition because the legal or commercial infrastructure to support expansion and diffusion isn't there. APIX, an Agency founded to promote investment in Senegal and the development of entrepreneurial companies on a national level, provided crucial information and guidance to encourage participants to register their mobile app development company.

An additional objective of the two day training and competition was to encourage the 7 teams of young women to liaise with current female leaders in the mobile app development Sector, and further pursue education and career opportunities in the Field. « As far as I’m concerned, technology wasn’t always the field of study I thought I would go into. Very interested in fashion and design, I recognized myself and my interests in programming. Creativity and innovation are at the heart of mobile app development. Attracted to the field and then converted, I became more and more interested in tech the more I discovered » underlines Aida.

Encouraging young girls to pursue a career in mobile app development is an integral part of UNESCO’s YouthMobile Initiative. Created in 2014 by UNESCO, the initiative offers introductory courses in computer programming (learning-to-code) and problem solving (coding-to-learn). The initiative targets young boys and girls to acquire basic technical skills and the necessary confidence for the development, promotion and marketing of mobile applications that address local sustainability issues. BY 2017, the initiative’s overall objective is to allow at least 25,000 young people to develop the skills of the 21st century to fully participate in addressing the challenges of sustainable development in their communities. The initiative introduces young people to entrepreneurship and to create viable employment opportunities in the mobile phone industry and ICT Sector.

As a follow up to the training and competition, the 7 teams will be further mentored throughout the year by counterparts from the Private Sector, Government Agencies, the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications of Senegal, and UNESCO to incubate and launch their innovative mobile applications that address pressing issues of sustainable development in the Region.

As Aida Mansour Lo enthusiastically stated at the end of the workshop: « I encourage everyone – but especially other girls – that want to get involved in tech to join Youthmobile and JifTIC in promoting young girls in technology! My slogan is « A dream, a reality : Use technology ! »

To know more about the YouthMobile initiative and the International Girls in ICT day in Senegal, check:

http://en.unesco.org/youthmobile

http://en.unesco.org/themes/ict-education

http://www.mcten.gouv.sn/(in French)




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