Feminist practice of technology

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Last month three Kenyans were named among Africa’s 20 most influential women in technology by IT News Africa a Johannesburg-based online news firm. Of course the number was 20 but I was quick to rush and see who the three sisters from my motherland were and what got their names to the top.

Here we go…IT News Africa confered Betty Mwangi-Thuo, Safaricom’s general manager for financial services, Isis Nyong’o former vice president for Africa at InMobi, an independent mobile advertising network, and Ory Okolloh, formerly a Google executive and now director at Omidyar Network an investment firm.

IT News Africa regarded the three along other 17 women from Nigeria, South Africa and Ghana for deepening ICT development in the continent and putting Kenya on the global technology map.

“Each year South Africa celebrates National women’s day, a day set aside to pay tribute to women in South Africa and their role in development in the country. IT News Africa celebrated the day by listing and paying tribute to twenty women in the continent who have significantly contributed to the development in Information Technology,” said the firm in a statement.

A closer look at the technology-trio

Ms Mwangi-Thuo has been in charge of mobile transfer service M-Pesa since its inception in 2007.She has seen it grow from a product that serves 7.3 million subscribers in 2009 to 15.3 million customers in March 2013, increasing its revenues from Sh2.93 billion to Sh10.3 billion over the period. By now you should know that M-pesa has evolved from a money transfer platform to been used in paying bills, schools fees and rent settlements. I also hope that you my reader, have at least seen the lipa na m-pesa advert where even ‘mitumba’ cloths can be paid via m-pesa!

The other techie is Ms Okolloh (by the way you can follow her on twitter @kenyanpundit) she co-founded Ushahidi a software that has been used to monitor elections in not only in Kenya but also in Mexico and India, track violence in eastern Congo and map post-earthquake crisis in Haiti.

Prior to that Ms Okolloh founded Mzalendo, a website that helps Kenya’s electorate keep track of the activities of their representatives in Parliament. The platform monitors and analyses Bills, speeches, and every MP who passes through Kenya’s Parliament, hence promoting transparency and accountability.

Ms Okolloh quit Ushahidi in 2011 joined Google as policy manager for Africa and then moved to the philanthropic investment firm, Omidyar Network.

Ms Nyong’o is the other techpreneur she has worked in senior management positions at MyJobsEye (Kenya’s pioneer job site), MTV, and most recently, Google.

You may be thinking, you have told us about the three women so?

There are certainly scores of other women who like the three, are doing great things in the ICT arena talk of Grace Githaiga an associate at KICTANet with interests in ICT policy and regulation, Fiona Asonga Telecommunications Service Providers Association of Kenya – TESPOK CEO, Alice Kinyua the vice chair of GAC, Rebecca Wanjiku a techjournalist and blogger who works with IDG News Service, Computerworld, PCWorld, and Infoworld, Njeri Rionge who co-founded Wananchi Group a leading provider of pay television, broadband internet and VoIP services …and of course tech learners and mentees like me!

 

Now my dear reader my intention is to bring to your attention the contributions of women in technology.

A look down the history:

Women have been instrumental in developing different technologies, but we hardly ever get to hear about them. Ada Lovelace was the founding-mother of modern computing in 1843. She conceptualized the binary system.’

Hedy Lamarr, who (in addition to her acting fame) was an accomplished mathematician, co-founded early broad spectrum – the key to wifi connections.

Kamla Devi was the first woman barefoot solar engineer, and trained countless illiterate women to use solar panels in Indian villages that did not have access to electricity. Kamla Devi’s success speaks volumes about the potential of technology. ‘

A look into the future

Now been the tech learner that I am means attending events, reading and asking questions always and to say the least I have come across some really great minds.

Last month at the iHub barcamp I was taken aback when this lady confidently and eloquently talked about IX/UX of course I had no idea what those were so I had to note down so that I could later on read more on that subject.

How can I end this post without mentioning Akirachix the women technologists, who among other things offer mentorship and training to young girls from disadvantaged backgrounds about technology. I could say they are transforming generations of women into techies!

For more information about the contents on this post refer to:

http://www.businessdailyafrica.com/Corporate+News/-/539550/1970174/-/w2mdb5/-/index.html

http://www.genderit.org/feminist-talk/five-principles-feminist-approach-technology

http://akirachix.com/about.html