Talking community networks at AfChix TechWomen Summit 2018

29 May 2018

Kazanka Comfort representing APC at AfChix 2018. All images sourced from author

For a day event, AfChix 2018 was well attended and really packed full of exciting activities. Among the notable participants were undergraduates from the University of Technology, Dakar. The presence of these young women at this high-profile ICT event for women was a reassuring sign that the future of AfChix is secured. The importance of the event was also underscored by the fact this was the first time the Africa Internet Summit (AIS) was dedicating a day for the African women in ICTs.

Khoudia Gueye SY, the chair of the Afchix Tech Women Summit set the ball rolling by sharing her experience of working with young Senegalese women to ensure they received opportunities for computer awareness. Dorcas Muthoni the founder of Afchix affirmed that events such as this supports women’s ICT skill development to make sure they are not left behind, and looks forward to more of their involvement in technology spaces such as African Network Operators Group, AFRINIC - the Internet Numbers Registry for Africa, and other such spaces.


Kazanka showing brochures of Feminist Principles of the Internet at Afchix 2018

At the first plenary session which was moderated by Madhvi Gokool of AFRINIC, South Africa they discussed “Encouraging African women in Technology and Community building, Role of NGOs”. Gueye Khoudia from Senegal shared her experience of building ICT capacity of girls from age 15, and how this improved their confidence in taking science courses and the English language. Houda Chakiri, chair of IEE women in Engineering Affinity group and co -chair of the Arab women in Computer Morocco Chapter emphasized the need to encourage volunteering for ICT capacity building and the need to address the funding needed to support women’s ICT engagements. For her, the issue of succession plans by the present generation of senior women in ICT is critical for the sustenance of the current momentum.

The issue of succession plans by the present generation of senior women in ICT is critical for the sustenance of the current momentum.


Michuki Mwangi, ISOC

Dorcas Muthoni raised issues on the pivotal role played by female role models while Michuki Mwangi of Internet Society (ISOC) made his presentation, on “Community Networks, what future for African Woman”. Michuki observed that with 47% of the world not yet connected and with only 35.2% connected in Africa where more than 60% live in rural communities, gender disparity constitutes a major challenge to the continent’s development. Community Network with its local ownership of infrastructure, affordability and relevant local content, women in Africa have a good chance to leapfrog into network management, content development, eCommerce, eLearning etc from their rural locations.

47% of the world not yet connected and with only 35.2% connected in Africa where more than 60% live in rural communities, gender disparity constitutes a major challenge to the continent’s development.

My participation focused on “Career paths for young Women; Technology trends: blockchain, IoT, big Data, machine learning, cyber security, smart grid” along with Irene Misoi of the Catholic University of Eastern Africa, Kenya. The growths in technological tools, processes and platforms have created new trends that are determining the job current job market. It is important that young women become aware of these trends and improve their proficiencies to become relevant for the job/ entrepreneurial market.

From a rural perspective, Fantsuam Foundation is working in deprived communities that have been ravaged by sectarian crisis with its attendant loss of human and material resources. This experience is typical of many African countries where democracy is yet to be fully functional. With women and girls as the major victims of these sectarian violence, Fantsuam Foundation is determined to continue to rebuild the capacities of survivors through its holistic approach to education. Working in, sometimes dangerous and resource-challenged environments, the reality remains that women are the hope for the peaceful developments of their communities. Therefore, training and retraining, replacement of stolen and vandalized ICT equipment, re-introduction of basic ICT concepts while bringing in global perspectives and opportunities continue to be our preoccupation. Technological developments such as Community Networks are very promising for us with their inherent characteristics of local ownership of infrastructure and content. And with women, being the most at-risk and most affected by sectarian violence, getting their support for peace efforts is nearly always assured.

Working in, sometimes dangerous and resource-challenged environments, the reality remains that women are the hope for the peaceful developments of their communities. Therefore, training and retraining, replacement of stolen and vandalized ICT equipment, re-introduction of basic ICT concepts while bringing in global perspectives and opportunities continue to be our preoccupation.

The AfChix event provided an additional challenge for me to prepare work more closely with ISOC in promoting policies that will make internet access more affordable for rural communities through the TVWS as well as starting a local branch of AfChix within my organization as part of our sustainability and succession plans.

Technological developments such as Community Networks are very promising for us with their inherent characteristics of local ownership of infrastructure and content.


Participants in Afchix Tech Summit 2018

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