“How can we get more women in tech?” is an often-asked question in digital development. Open Source for Equality (OSEQ) is actively answering this with its first Open-Source challenge in Uganda. Women in Africa face multiple barriers to access information and affordable internet, learn digital skills and become competitive in the tech sector. Globally, women comprise only 6% of open-source developers, and the number is significantly lower in the global south. Change is slow, but innovation/mentorship competitions with our #SDF Audiopedia* partner, OSEQ, are helping boost the sector’s diversity and impact. We sat down with Nelly Shatu, a recent participant and emerging web developer, and OSEQ to discuss gender and open-source platforms.
The competition itself brought together five female developers to create audio web applications based on the real needs of local women’s organisations. With the support of OSEQ mentor Fanny Nyayic, the developers used WOM.fm Sandbox and a GitHub template that facilitates the development of accessible web apps for digital audio. While just the first in an ongoing program, the challenge contributes to existing local ecosystems of female-focused organizations where open-development thrives. Providing role models and access for women is what OSEQ sees as an essential building block in supporting more women in tech.
While competitions can provide networks for women in tech, the stubborn persistence of gender norms can be an overwhelming barrier to female participation. Not only is open-source development seen as being a male-dominated profession, but multiple obstacles also intersect before this point – from getting a seat in educational spaces like Barbara Birungi, to expectations of a women’s role in family life. Sitting down with Nelly Shatu has shed light on how things are slowly changing one woman at a time.
If you have female allies in tech and web development, the space to experiment becomes more inviting to learn, adapt and grow – for both men and women
Nelly Shatu, developer and participant of Open Source Challenge
Nelly is a young single mum who has landed in tech through the inspiration and encouragement of her aunty and the strong support of her mother. Although Nelly is fortunate to have a supportive family and a close role model, the dominance of men in the sector, both in number and in attitudes, initially discouraged her form furthering her digital skills. Now, as an emerging web developer managing her own social media business, Nelly sees how women can uniquely contribute to the industry. She sees a market for women within the sector. Not only that, Nelly believes that when women have allies around, the space is much more comfortable for men and women alike to learn, adapt, and grow. Understanding the myriad opportunities offered by tech, Nelly seeks to combine her passion for fashion and design with new digital skills thanks to mentorship opportunities like the open-source challenge. OSEQ sees this as the first of many challenges, as a new partnership with She Code Africa cements further collaboration.
OSEQ is an implementing partner of the # SmartDevelopmentFund’s Audiopedia, which aligns with these priorities to promote gender transformative change. The purpose of Audiopedia is to help bridge the gender knowledge gap through open-source, audible learning materials. The platform has been created in local languages and offers options for data-light, offline mode, and solar-powered devices to make learning more accessible. For more on Audiopedia or the other #SmartDevelopmentFun projects, check out sdf.f4d.eu