East Africa Com Interview: GlobalX's Sylvia Mukasa on women in tech
Ahead of East Africa Com 2020, she chatted to Connecting Africa about the skills gap in east Africa and what can be done to help women in the region succeed in the tech industry.
Connecting Africa (CA): Your work with GlobalX focuses on skills and opportunities for aspiring developers and entrepreneurs. What skills do you believe are in highest demand in east Africa?
Sylvia Mukasa (SM): As new technologies emerge, there are a large number of hard skills that are in high demand. These include blockchain, cloud computing, analytical reasoning from data to make sense of it or uncover insights and artificial intelligence, (AI) including machine learning and natural language processing. Other skills needed include user experience (UX) design to enable building more human-centric products and experiences, web development, quantum computing, Internet of Things, Robotic Process Automation, programming languages and mobile development.
However, we have to look at a mix of both soft and hard skills. There is also high demand for soft skills such as:
CA: Supporting women in tech is also an issue close to your heart. What can be done to drive greater inclusion of women in the African tech space?
SM: I'm absolutely passionate about women in tech. Gender-responsive policy is most critical, involving integration of gender in ICT-related strategies, policies, plans and budgets, with clear gender-equality targets. Governments need to invest more in generating gender-disaggregated data to track progress. Of the 14 indicators of progress associated with the United Nations gender equity goal – Sustainable Development Goal 5 (SDG5) – most countries only measure three.
The tech sector must also do more towards equality and diversity to overcome biases and barriers, stereotypes, create relevant products, content and services that take into account the specific needs of girls and women.
We need to put into action real solutions, action plans and roadmaps such as the recommendations of the UN's Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development, UNHRC's gender digital divide recommendations and the proposals of the UN-IT partnership "Equals" to bridge the gender digital divide amongst others. They should not gather dust.
CA: What would be your advice to young women in east Africa looking to go into the tech industry?
SM: Believe in yourselves because gender does not define your abilities, be dynamic and keep reinventing yourselves. Technology is fast changing, so you cannot afford to be static to remain relevant in tech. Others have gone before you and tried to make things better.
CA: You'll be joining us at East Africa Com to take part in a panel on emerging technologies and inclusion. Why is this topic important to you?
SM: While steps have been taken in eastern Africa towards improving inclusion and equality in emerging technologies in recent years, much work still remains. This session will explore the benefits, for everyone, of unlocking the potential of a more equitable society, as well as the possible mechanisms needed to achieve this. It goes beyond challenging business, government and civil society on inclusion and takes a deep dive into this topic.
CA: What are you most looking forward to at East Africa Com 2020?
SM: It is always an honor to interact with a rich mix of people from diverse backgrounds. This provides an opportunity to meet industry thought leaders; learn new trends in technology from the talks and exhibitions, hopefully meeting potential business partners; networking and generally have a good time.