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Bridging The Digital Economy Divide Between Men And Women

Author: 

Diwura Oladepo, Executive Director at Tech4Dev

Microsoft and non-profit social enterprise, Tech4Dev have partnered on the Women Techsters Initiative to train girls and women across Africa in coding and deep tech skills, aiming to bridge the digital and technology divide and ensure equal access to opportunities across the continent.

The Women Techsters initiative, which is aimed at girls and women between 16 – 40, across 54 countries in Africa, was launched in a virtual roundtable today, hosted by Microsoft Philanthropies and Tech4Dev.

In her opening remark, Ghada Khalifa, Regional Director- Microsoft Philanthropies MEA, was excited about the initiative being scaled to other countries on the African continent from Nigeria where the program was piloted said that “When we empower girls and women in the ICT industry, through greater access to skills and training, we not only unlock innovation, but also economic opportunities.”

A recent report by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) cautioned that Africa’s inequality could worsen unless concrete action is taken to bridge the continent’s digital divide.

Lillian Barnard, Managing Director at Microsoft South Africa, shared this sentiment, acknowledging that while much has been done on the continent to streamline upskilling in STEM areas, more and continuous efforts are required to increase women and girls' participation in Tech. 

“The overall objective of Women Techsters is to grow and support a community of tech-empowered girls and women across the continent, who will have equal access to decent job opportunities as well as to build and scale their ideas into tech-enabled businesses and deep tech start-ups, ultimately aiding overall economic growth,” she said.

Unpacking more around the intricacies of the initiative and partnership, Diwura Oladepo, Executive Director at Tech4Dev pointed out that the initiative aligns with two of the Sustainable Development Goals – to achieve gender equality and decent work and economic growth for women and girls.

“Partnering with Microsoft made complete sense when it came to seeking a partner and organisation that has continuously reaffirmed its commitment to digitally transforming communities through upskilling and fostering a knowledge economy. Our shared belief that training and empowering young women across Africa will help achieve a male-female ratio balance in the technology space, while providing them with useful skills to build more efficient businesses, or rewarding careers using technology,” said Oladepo.

The training provided through the initiative will focus on technical skills such as software development, product design, product management, data science and AI engineering, and cybersecurity, and will be delivered through a series of simultaneous activities. 

Open days, boot camps and masterclasses will serve as a virtual program for girls and women across the continent to learn about leveraging technology for career and business growth.   The program has been developed in such a way, that participants will not only learn and develop deep technical skills but can fill knowledge gaps; learn coding skills and jumpstart their careers.

The Women Techsters fellowship will be a year-long coding program and will make use of standardised learning curriculums across five learning tracks. The training will be for three months, supported by a six-month internship and enrolment into a mentorship program.

“Initially, we are launching the initiative in Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, South Africa and Egypt and are excited to see how we can live up to our mission of enabling participating girls and women to do more. We know that when women are fully empowered, society benefits overall,” concludes Barnard. 

With initiatives like this, this is part of Microsoft Africa Inclusion plan, to skill 6 million people by end of calendar year 2023.

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