By Inyene Ibanga
As the world becomes increasingly dependent on digital technology and computer systems, under-served/unserved communities still lack access to technology. Because there is no access, many people in developing countries cannot experience the transformational impact of digital technology.
Nigeria is Africa’s biggest technology market. In December 2020, the country had 24 per cent or more than 203 million of the continent’s internet users, followed by Egypt with 54.7 million users.
The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) report on the Nigerian GDP shows that the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) sector recorded the highest growth rate of all the sectors of the Nigerian economy, not only in the last quarter of 2020, but all through the entire year.
In fact, the ICT sector grew by 14.70 per cent in the last quarter of 2020 and also posted a 12.90 per cent growth rate in the overall period of assessment. It is currently rated as the only sector to have grown by double digits.
Several tech startups abound in the agricultural, educational, healthcare, banking and finance, e-commerce, and transportation sectors of Nigeria’s economy. They are utilising digital technologies and innovation to deliver creative solutions to different problems in communities.
But, the tech ecosystem is mainly dominated by men, and only a very few girls and women are actively involved in the sector. The gender disparity in the technology sector in Nigeria is a reflection of the African and global realities.
Despite the rapid growth in Nigeria’s technology sector, only very few women have the opportunity to participate as founders/owners or employees of tech businesses. As such, bridging the gap between male and female participation in the technology sector remains a huge challenge for the stakeholders.
Regardless of the disparity in accessing opportunities, women are creating innovations and spearheading change through technology in their immediate environments. Gradually, things are changing as younger women are showing interest in the sector.
While women creators of technology or innovators are very minimal, the gender is eager to partner the men folk in shaping the development of technology in Nigeria. Going by recent events, women are announcing their active participation as co-creators of technology and innovation.
Though outnumbered in the tech sector, a host of young and enthusiastic women are working silently to impact the industry with a new wave of creativity, innovation and leadership. They are creating technologies and innovation to help solve problems peculiar to their gender, and the entire society.
Although there is no reliable estimate of female tech creators/innovators, there are some notable women pioneers in the Nigeria tech industry. They include Funke Okpeke, Florence Seriki, Omobola Johnson, Dr. Olayinka David West, and Nkemdilim Begho, just to mention a few.
Banke Alawaye, Jejumade Afonja, Hamdalah Adetunji, Monini Ufelu are among the new generation of women contributing within the technology space. Through their efforts, many tech startups are developing innovative platforms that provide solutions to everyday problems.
One of Nigeria’s new generation tech amazons is Saadat Aliyu, who successfully designed and launched an android application for reporting cases of sexual abuse. The Mobile App called HELPIO provides a safe space for children and adults to report any form of abuse.
The app, in partnership with civil society groups, has a multi-disciplinary response team comprising counselors, lawyers, medics, and advocates, which will facilitate more successful prosecution of abusers/offenders.
Aliyu, popularly known as Soosy Ammora, is the founder and CEO of Shamrock Innovations, a Kano-based tech innovation hub, which provides support for female and young entrepreneurs in the tech ecosystem.
She is following on the heels of the five Anambra school girls who developed an application in 2018 called FD Detector to check the fake pharmaceutical products in Nigeria.
Promise Nnalue, Jessica Osita, Nwabuaku Ossai, Adaeze Onuigbo and Vivian Okoye, all students of Regina Pacies Secondary School student, Onitsha, went on to win the gold medal at the 2018 technovation world pitch in the U.S. after defeating representatives from leading tech countries.
The young tech innovator, a graduate of Computer Science, said she learnt IT skills from her brother while in junior secondary school and later became a self-taught developer.
That another female tech enthusiast has been able to create an application that helps to solve a serious problem facing the women folk, is a worthy recognition for those women who blazed the trail for the new crop of female tech enthusiasts.
In recognition of this feat, the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Pantami directed the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) to provide all the support necessary to ensure that Nigerian women in rural areas have access to the HELPIO App.
Consequently, the Director-General of NITDA, Kashifu Inuwa declared the agency’s preparedness to promote the HELPIO app on its social media platforms and traditional media programmes, while also promising to assist the hub with other logistics to enhance seamless integration.
Kashifu also assured the hub that the agency would provide it with all support, mentoring and monitoring of their progress, in line with standards and guidelines governing the tech sector in Nigeria.
For women in Nigerian tech space, NITDA’s support to a fellow creator is a huge step towards closing the gender gap in the sector. It would spur more women to come up with creative ways of advocating and developing solutions that impact on people’s lives.
In order to encourage more female tech creators/techpreneurs, NITDA and its supervisory Ministry should revive the nationwide girls tech clubs in partnership with ICT-focused NGOs and female-led tech startups/companies.
To celebrate women tech entrepreneurs/innovators, it is imperative for NITDA to create a special platform with exclusive focus on providing incentives to stimulate the inventive capacity of our women and young girls within the nooks and crannies of the country.
Our women have a crucial role to play in Nigeria’s tech industry as we mark this 2021 International Day of Women, and the diversity they bring can only serve as a massive boost to the tech ecosystem, and the digital economy.
Inyene Ibanga, Editor TechDigest writes from Wuye District, Abuja.