Women take bold strides into ICT
Posted Thursday, July 30 2009 at 00:00
Last week, Jessica Colaco, who describes herself as a technology evangelist, was literally giving the talk of her life, and had just 18 minutes in which to do it.
The 26- year- old research fellow at Strathmore University was challenged to talk to a room full of global luminaries on the evolving technological hotbed that is Kenya.
It is a topic that is close to Ms Colaco’s heart—at her age, she is already been billed as one of the country’s most innovative software developers.
She has featured in Business Daily’s Top 40 Under 40 list and has driven initiatives that have seen international tech giants like Facebook and Google take a more interest in the country’s technology scene.
A week ago, she spoke at the TED Global event, joining a list of illustrious speakers, who included Bill Clinton, Bill Gates, Jane Goodall, Sir Richard Branson, Isabel Allende and U2 frontman, Bono.
TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design, and is globally centred forum that initially started in 1984 as a conference bringing together people from those three worlds.
Since then, its scope has broadened to include science, business, the arts, and global issues facing our world. The annual conference now brings together the world’s most fascinating thinkers and doers, who are challenged to give talks dubbed “a four-day journey into the future.”
“We need to do more to put this country on the map. We have the ability to be one of the biggest contributors to the ICT sector in the world—the talent is here, we just need to tap into it as a country,” said Ms Colaco.
It is telling that Ms Colaco is among a growing number of women who are adding vibrant colour to the country’s budding software development field.
More women around the world are beginning to embrace technology, heralding a new age in an industry that has until now been largely dominated by men.
According to Her Code, a new study undertaken by Orange Labs, the most significant growth in numbers of women embracing technology are in Ms Colaco’s age group.
The study, which identifies future trends that will drive women’s involvement in the ICT sector, reveals that a growing number of women are driving the fortunes of big technology firms such as Yahoo, Sun Microsystems and IBM.
A good example is the first female engineer at Google (fondly known as Google Employee #20) Marissa Mayer, the 34-year-old Vice-President of Search Products and User Experience, who developed Google News, Image Search, and the popular email system, GMail.
But women are still not making significant gains in the technology software development area, where just two per cent of Open Source developers are women.
The report says this is alarming given the traction the Open Source has been gaining both with the Linux and Android operating systems.
A study published by the Pew Internet & American Life Project finds that among web users between the ages of 12 to 17, significantly more girls than boys blog (35 per cent compared with 20 per cent, respectively).
But perhaps even more encouraging is that girls eclipse boys when it comes to building or working on web sites for other people and creating profiles on social networking sites (70 per cent of girls aged 15 - 17 versus 57 per cent of boys).