Tanzania shows how to involve women and the young

David Dickson

David Dickson
Correspondent, SciDev.Net

Africa must not forget the need to actively engage both young people and women in developing application for new technologies.

That was the message enthusiastically conveyed to the second day of the 2012 Africa-EU Cooperation Forum on ICT, being held in Lisbon, Portugal, by Catherinerose Barretto from Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

Barretto described how, with a group of colleagues, she had set up a company called KINU, dedicated to providing “an open space for Tanzania’s tech community to foster co-creation, innovation and capacity building”.

A key to KINU’s goals has been the active engagement of the potential users of ICTs and other new technologies. “We realised that there was a huge gap between what new technology can do and its actual application,” said Barretto. “It will be people that come up with solutions.”

KINU has recently moved into its own premises in Dar Es-Salaam which offers a range of facilities, from data storage to a room in which individuals can develop their presentation skills – essential for young entrepreneurs.

KINU at work — a recent “hackathon” in Dar es Salaaam

“The biggest thing for us was the need for a space for people to come together and develop the skills they need,” explained Barretto. “We not only focus on technical people, but all those involved in setting up innovative projects.”

KINU now works with some well-known names, such as Google, SEACOM and the Indigo Trust.

But establishing the links has taken work. “We were self-funded for a long time. Six young people trying to set up a tech hub in Tanzania was virtually unheard of when we started,” said Barretto. “No-one believed us.”

Engaging women has been a strong priority. “When we had an open meeting to discuss possible projects, of 250 people in the room only ten were women. Only one woman presented, and she was European,” she said.

As a result, she started meetings called ‘Girls Night Out’ to get women interested in how to use new technology. Activities ranged from teaching women how to build mobile aps for their businesses, to sessions in which they were invited to bring in their grandmothers to learn how to use mobile phones.

KINU is also working with a local university in a project under which students are required to go out and find a problem in the local community, to come up with a way of fixing it – and then to pitch the solution to the affected community.

The inspiring message was well received by the meeting. At least one participant asked for an immediate meeting to discuss future collaboration. The wave of the future?

More information: www.kinu.co.tz.

This blog post is part of our 2012 Africa-EU Cooperation Forum on ICT blog, which takes place 28-29 November 2012, in Lisbon, Portugal. To read news and analysis on ICTs please visit our website.

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