I’m sitting with a Ghanaian lady named Ivy in a timbered German coworking space, talking about the internet of our homelands.
Minutes later, Ivy Barley’s team is named as the winner of the #eskills4girls challenge, receiving €15,000 of funding and later appearing at the G20 spinoff conference, W20, where leaders like Angela Merkel would come together to talk about the economic empowerment of women — and particularly online.
In our increasingly digital world we now face a digital gender divide: Compared to men, about 250 million fewer women around the world have access to the internet and the future employment possibilities it provides.
Germany’s Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, which launched the global challenge with the Impact Hub network, says part of the solution lies in role models like Ivy, co-founder of Developers in Vogue.
Ivy, what is your vision and what opportunities for internet access do women in Ghana have?
Developers In Vogue’s vision is to shape a world where more African women will be daring enough to lead in areas of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM): There is a great under-representation of women in STEM fields, and Developers In Vogue seeks to solve that. In Ghana, there are difficulties in that women in urban communities are more likely to get internet access as compared to those in the rural areas and internet access costs are more expensive in Accra than in other major cities in Africa.
I have always been enthused about tech since my teenage years — I got access to a computer and the internet at a relatively young age, so had the opportunity to explore the potential of the internet earlier. I have always been curious about how things work and this sparked my interest in innovation with technology. After high school, I learnt how to code on my own and developed my first website at age 17.
Through my interactions with other women in Ghana, I realised that 7 out of 10 do not just want to be consumers of technology but rather producers. At Developers In Vogue, we want to give these young ladies the opportunity to learn how to be producers of technology.
Our aim is not to start another coding school. We want to create an ecosystem – a caring community for young ladies to code, connect and collaborate. During our market research, we discovered that although young ladies have the passion for learning tech, there are factors that inhibit them. Some include social conditioning, inadequate female mentors and lack of incentives.We are solving this by giving scholarships to the young ladies. They are also assigned dedicated mentors who will guide and support them in terms of further education and career choice. Ultimately, we want to keep supporting these young ladies to be able to achieve their best potential.
Our main criteria for selecting the ladies into our programme are passion and commitment. We do not consider age, religion, disability, educational background, etc. These ladies come from varied backgrounds and they are taught from scratch. The training is in full-stack web development, mobile apps development and data science and, as an example, we have a lady currently on our programme who is developing an app to help people with autism.
Our priority for these ladies is for them to be able to apply the skills they have learnt, as the curriculum is project oriented. The ladies are given the opportunity to work on real-time projects and also jobs through the companies we’re in partnership with. This, therefore, has the potential to enable them to earn an income; hence reducing hunger and poverty in Africa. As a social enterprise, the revenue earned from this helps us to be sustainable.
We are currently training our first cohort of 20 young ladies in full-stack web development. In September, we will be opening applications for our second cohort, which will have a larger intake. The prize-money will be used to train the ladies on the second cohort. We are also working on releasing the MVP [Minimum Viable Product] of our online freelance platform.
We aim at creating a relevant community of highly skilled female developers using technology to revolutionise Africa and beyond. With our initiative, the current statistic of 3% of black women in tech fields can improve significantly and we want to scale our model to other African countries in the next few years. This is the time for Africa to shine and we are very excited to be part of the generation that will revolutionise Africa in a big way!
CatchImpact is a new blog series sharing social entrepreneurship solutions to pressing world problems; check out the first interviews on a festive approach to transparent donations and urban food resilience in an earthquake-shattered city.