New ideas, experiences and connections: EAST's Women in ICT programme
At the 10th edition of the eLearning Africa conference, the eLearning Africa Supporting Transformation Trust (EAST) launched its Women in ICT programme. A programme that brought together women from throughout Africa, working in or studying ICT, to network and acquire knowledge about the latest industry developments.
Beatrice Okoth, a Learner Support Services Coordinator at the eCampus of Maseno University, Kenya, described her excitement after hearing she was chosen to take part in the programme as “inexplicable”. Through EAST she would be flown to Ethiopia to attend the eLearning Africa conference – an event which attracted 1,389 political leaders, entrepreneurs and educators from 68 countries.
Okoth was joined by Melisa Achoko Allela, assistant lecturer at the Technical University of Kenya, and Sarah Kiden, a web and eLearning administrator from the Uganda Christian University.
The women attended sessions that, according to Allela, sparked “ideas that would impact future research.” Okoth said the pre-conference session on women and ICT was particularly useful as it allowed for a small group of people to freely brainstorm with experts, ask questions and share experiences. “It also gave birth to a project that we hope to follow to a logical end.”
Okoth added that she was inspired by young entrepreneurs such Rebecca Enonchong, Founder and CEO of AppsTech, Cameroon, who gave a keynote presentation. “These African entrepreneurs and innovators more than anything else inspired us with their innovations, passion and sheer determination to bring socio economic change through using ICT to increase access to education and to promote sustainable development.”
In addition to attending sessions, the women took part in a mentorship programme led by Dr Mitslal Kifleyesus-Matschie, the founder of Ecological Products of Ethiopia – ECOPIA. Kiden said of the discussion: “The most pressing issue that stood out was the need for mentorship for girls in school (primary or secondary school and university) so as to encourage them to pursue careers in ICT or computer science. Other issues were access, maternal health, demand, flexibility and sociocultural norms. The team also agreed that successful women in the field need to be publicised so that other upcoming women and girls can be challenged to work harder.”
Their discussion caught the attention of Eric Luguya from UN-Habitat, Kenya. The unexpected knowledge exchange allowed Luguya to gain unique insights into how his organisation can best encourage women to participate in its online programme.
Feedback from the EAST participants reveal that the Women in ICT programme was a great success. “It was a chance to network and learn from colleagues in my area of research interest and expertise as well as acquire best practices from similar initiatives from various countries in Africa and beyond the continent,” Allela said.
Kiden commented: “Overall, the conference was a great learning experience and I was inspired to even work harder. I sincerely appreciate the sponsorship from EAST to attend the conference because I have continued to benefit from attending the conference since 2013. I plan to stay engaged in the eLearning Africa community.”
From left: Beatrice Okoth, Sarah Kiden, Melisa Allela.
Women in ICT Participants 2015
Photo rights to Melisa Allela
Devotha Nyambo, MSc. student, Nelson Mandela African Institution of Science and Technology, Tanzania and EAST participant 2014
“The eLearning Africa conference was an eye opening event for me to understand the key steps that Africa needs to take and move to the next steps of providing better education to all level of scholars. I heartily recommend the support from EAST and advice those who get support to make sure that the benefits realised are passed to all in their local communities. For example, I was able to take with me eleven reports which I shared with my institution to enable those who could not get a chance to participate to see and know what everybody out there is doing in eLearning.
My institution runs an e-reader project which is under the Nelson Mandela African Institution of Science and Technology. The project’s main goal is to enable the realization of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) in providing reliable reading and teaching content to primary and secondary schools around Arumeru district in Arusha, Tanzania. Through the conference, I came across new ideas and challenges regarding adoption of ICTs for learning in African’s context especially Tanzania. To be specific, one take away from the conference regarding improvement of our project was how to ensure that the use of ICTs in teaching is in line with existing pedagogy.”