Huguette Diakabana - How to ensure that technology is bridging and not widening the access gap in the global southApply to Speak

Automatic Summary

Empowering Women in Tech: Reflections and Ways Forward

Welcome, and thank you for joining us today! We are diving into an increasingly relevant topic: the role of women in the tech environment, particularly those residing in the global south - Africa, parts of Asia, and Latin America. I'm IgE Diak Cabaa, and my work with the World Health Organization involves advising on how best to use technology to aid health outcomes throughout marginalised communities worldwide.

My Journey: A Foundation in Education and Health

Combining innovation and human interactions for over a decade, my journey has taken me through various sectors, from education to community development and health. The importance of technology as a driving force has been further emphasized by the pandemic, highlighting the dire situation in some parts of the world.

While we consider technological advancements as a way to propel us forward, we must acknowledge the different realities across the globe. The ability to access technology - powered electricity, a stable internet connection, or a digital device literacy - is not universal. Many women globally are still in the dark. Therefore, as professionals in tech, we all have a role in enlightening and uplifting women worldwide.

Discovering a World Beyond

My interest in science was sparked by a female science teacher during my seventh grade. That experience shattered my naive belief that science and technology were not for women. It opened my eyes to the possibilities. I urge you to share your journey, your work, and your experiences with technology, especially with children, to encourage them and open their minds to what's possible.

Early Interventions: The Key to Inspiring Future Generations

Introducing technology early to girls across the world is a critical step, unfortunately often overlooked. For those working in communities with less access to resources, consider talking about your journey. Simply telling them about your work can spark interest and introduce them to new possibilities. Showing them a different side of reality can be a transformational gift.

Walking the Path: Making a Difference Regardless of Your Position

Irrespective of your position at entry level, management, or even as founders, we all have something to give. It could be as simple as sharing your passion for technology with a young girl in your community or passing up an opportunity to a more deserving female colleague.

Soul Sisters in Tech: Sharing the Journey

Sharing our journey can create a ripple effect, inspiring and nudging others along the way. This acknowledgement that everyone's journey is valuable, not just the stereotypical "board member" or "adviser", is vital.

Talent Is Ubiquitous: Empowering Unexpected Problem Solvers

Recognizing that talent exists everywhere, and sometimes in the most unexpected places, is also crucial. We might be overlooking current and future problem solvers because of our preconceived ideas of who a problem solver is. By acknowledging other women's skills, we can bring more forward-thinking women into the tech world.

Pass the Mic and Celebrate

Passing the mic and celebrating each other's achievements is another way to uplift women in tech. This act of recognizing and recommending each other for roles, especially those who do not typically fit the profile, can validate our diverse experiences and change how we view who a tech professional should be.


In conclusion, every one of us - regardless of our professional standing - can make a difference. We can create spaces and opportunities for women globally to make their mark in the tech world, improve lives and enhance the global community.

Thank you again for joining us today, and we look forward to further engagements and collaborations. Remember, the door is open, and every woman who walks through it carries with her the potential to change the world.

Video Transcription

So thank you again everyone for joining me this evening. For me. It's morning probably and maybe even late in the evening from some from more of you.Uh This today, I wanted to take this time and talk about um what we can do as women in the tech environment to ensure that as, as uh innovation evolves and we move forward that we don't leave women who are residing mostly in the global South. And that's a term that we use in development. So he refers primarily to Africa, parts of Asia, um to Latin America and to leave them behind. Uh Again, my name is IgE Diak Cabaa. I am a currently an advisor to the World Health Organization. So my, my work is advising uh the who on how to find themselves, how to, where to place themselves in this fast moving environment and how to best use uh how to best use technology to ensure that um health outcomes improve and especially uh involving people in marginalized community communities all throughout the world.

I've been introducing technology to people now for about 10 years, I worked in education, I've worked in community development in collaboration with mining companies to develop rural communities who are impacted by mining activities. And um but for the last five years, also, I've been working in health uh again, as I said, introducing technology in the health space so that we can um best figure out uh address uh the many issues that exist and the pandemic if anything has showed us how important technology is and the reason I wanted to talk to you all and share some experience with you this evening is exactly uh because the pandemic has highlighted the, the dire situation that exists in some parts of the world.

We see technology for those of us who interact with it regularly as a way to move us forward. But I'm not sure you won't be surprised to hear that that's not the case for everyone. So if you're here, if you are able to find to be here this evening, it means you have power, it means as in electricity uh or generator, some, some way to generate power, you have access to internet, you're able to pay for internet that works well enough for you to be and be able to join a community like this.

You're able to, you, you're literate, you're able to sign up and you know how to use a digital device. Many women in the in the world still don't know how to do it in some small ways. The work that I'm doing in similar work that others are doing is slowly um getting to that. But we really, there needs to be an effort by all of us, those of us who are well positioned, whether it's an at entry level or um and management level or even at the levels of founders, all of us have something that we can give to make sure that um women all over the world move forward with us.

I like to the talk I, I give about this, I, I call it soul sisters in tech. Um And the, the term soul sister uh signifies for me, people who are, who are connected um uh in, in, in, in, in some shape or form. And I see women who utilize tech in, in any, any aspect of their lives as people who recognize the value of it and therefore, are able to um help bring others along um to also benefit from it in the same way we have um to. So I'm gonna start talking from um talking about some of my early experiences how I even became. Um I even got into um health. So until I was about 11 years old, I actually had no idea that women could be scientists. Um I, I always thought of um I had women teachers but whenever I came to learning math or um anything related to science or uh I wasn't even used to technology until I was about 12, that it was not for women. And so at, in seventh grade, I had a uh a science teacher who was a woman and just the fact of having a woman teaching me science sparked this new interest. It was open, it opened up a whole new world for me. And so that's an example of how much just being us, just being a woman in this space um can be an inspiration to a little girl, a small child um out there in the world.

And so I encourage you in, in, in, in your daily lives, whether it's at your work, in your neighborhoods. Um Any opportunity that you might have to talk about who you are and what you're doing and how you're using technology and make sure that the kids around you get to hear that because the interest um the, the passion that you have for your work can spark something in a child who doesn't even know that this is a possibility.

So really introducing technology early to women and to girls um I all over the world is, is key. I know in the US, there are a lot of programs for uh for technology throughout the world. It's still something that's not available. So if you work internationally and you work where there are communities that are not as that low resource or where girls don't necessarily have access to people like us. I challenge you. And II I ask you to make an effort and find a way to go and talk to little girls, to girls and just tell them what you do. You don't even have to encourage them to do the same. But tell them what you do. And the simple fact of seeing a woman doing what you're doing can spark interest. And so the other thing this teacher did for me, she noticed my interest and what she ended up doing, giving me a gift that propelled me into the career that I'm doing today. She uh sent me to a science camp. Another thing I had no idea existed that women or kids can go to a place and spend their entire summer looking at science doing experiments, figuring out how things worked. And so that was my first introduction to the uh to how much, how exciting it can be.

And at that camp, I was introduced to coding early on and it was exciting for me to know my goodness, I can build something we used to play video games uh at home and I could do, you know, very beginner versions. Uh uh I think spaceship was the first game I learned to code as a 12 year old and it was just being able to create something. Um It was incredible for me and even though I was going to go back to my normal life, uh we were, my family is from Congo and we immigrated to the US um in, in our lives that we were really at the beginning of figuring out life at the US. And going back to that after this camp just opened up another world for me, I knew that at some point I had to make it through school because as an adult, there was this whole world where you can code program things and create um create whatever you wanted to solve problems using computers in some shape or form.

So that's where my interest um started. And as we spark and today I, as I mentioned, I'm working with the World Health Organization. I've, I've uh done many programs throughout Africa. Uh I worked on a program that, that led uh we use community surveillance program that led to the end of Declaration of, of polio in, in Africa. And all of that would not have been possible without this teacher who early in my life won just by being herself, showed me who she was um to notice my interest and show me who she was and what was possible for me as a girl, notice my interest in science and, and um had me attend this camp and encourage my learning.

And once I got there, it just opened up another world for me. And this, this uh fortune of meeting amazing people continued on in my life. So when I began to work, uh my very first manager, I was only 19 and she was still in the early twenties. So this is to show you how much at any point in our lives, we can do something that makes a difference. Uh, especially for women who aren't as fortunate or who are uh from low resource areas. This uh boss of mine, we talked, it was a, it was a part time job that I had at a bookstore. And I told her about my dream of returning and working in Africa and doing something at the time. I was really passionate about education and how much, how much it opens worse for people. And I told her I wanted to figure out a way to integrate technology and how we educate young um young people uh mainly in my own country of Congo. But throughout Africa, uh I worked with her for about two years. I left the company and she remembered this. So about three years after I left the company, I get a call and it's she, it's my boss, my former boss who um I've moved on. I, you know, I was about my mid, my early twenties and she and her in her late twenties, uh calls me and tells me that she met the CEO who's doing a technology, who's doing a scholarship funding program in 11 countries in Africa.

They were looking for someone to go and do an assessment and she was going, they wanted her to go do that job and she recommended me. She was also uh African. She also wanted to go back home but she knew my, my um my desire to do this and she knew my passion for technology because that was one thing that they wanted to figure out how to integrate technology a program. Um So she handed me that opportunity and that my friends is how I returned to a, to Congo um worked in 11 countries and eventually um kept working and, and to be where I am today. And so that's just to say uh the lesson that that experience um taught me was that in with wherever we're working, um whether it's at a fast food, whether it's at, you know, at a, at a big tech company or at a small company is uh especially those of you who are in, in whether it's in the US or other places where um women are still figuring out where to go, young women are still trying to figure out their career.

Um You can encourage, you can encourage them to explore and share their dreams. You can encourage them to figure out um to encourage them to figure out ways to make it happen. And more importantly, as a manager, you might have some opportunities that they don't necessarily have and that when they might, it might be a time where, you know, something comes up and you remember this, this either current or former employee of yours, um do go ahead and hand them that opportunity, especially if you know that they're able to to um to rise to the occasion.

Um My, my former manager had no idea what I was able to do. She had no idea what my technology skills uh were. But when an opportunity showed up, that could utilize most of my, my, my skills, the ones that I've demonstrated and also give me an opportunity to learn new skills. She called me and woke me up at 10 p.m. and set me on a path that has led me where I am today. And so wherever you are, keep your eyes open, figure out what what your team members want to do, whether it's within your companies or outside. And this, this idea of sponsoring each other of turning opportunities over to those who need. It is one key ways of making sure that more of us, more women from low resource areas all over the world are also able to grab some of these opportunities that they may not necessarily um have access to. And the last thing I wanted to share is the last experience I'll share is that in my own work. So I'm currently in different on different boards.

Um And I call this part pass the mic and celebrate and I call it past the mic because the reason I'm even on this board again is because people who knew of the work that I've done and they were, you know, small projects in a village somewhere and then they eventually recommended to a larger project now do nationwide project.

And eventually I started doing regional projects. So deploying um technology in multiple countries and still in Central and West Africa, those people noticed my ability to manage to build teams and they started recommending for boards over recommending me for boards of organizations who could use that um the, the, the knowledge and the experience that I've acquired.

And so that's what I mean by pass the mic. So when you, when we see that, you know, there are and I don't fit the profile of the usual board member. Um when you, when you know of someone is uh especially, you know, again, all over the world, but especially those who are not, don't come across opportunities or those who may not fit the mold of, you know, a board member or um or, or, or an advisor, but you know that they have the know how they can help this organization or company move forward, go ahead and pass them and give them the opportunity to share their experiences because what that does is that it validates all of our experiences.

Um II I, it, it changes the image of who is a tech person or who is in manager or who is uh a problem solver. Um And in doing so, we are able to ignite this inner light um in, in, in, in people and the more opportunities we share, the more opportunities uh women in low resource areas receive. I'm one. So I can tell you the more we learn and the more we shine and we are, we keep on rising and we can also make contributions that are, wouldn't otherwise be made if we didn't have these opportunities. Um I shared in my takeaways uh for, for, you know, for the talk, uh several points. But what really, I want to emphasize here by sharing my own experience by encouraging you to also uh take into um extend opportunities no matter where you were in your career. Uh It's that recognizing that talent exists everywhere, people who are talented may not match our traditional image of who a talented person is. Uh But if we will be, you know, it's surprising what happens when you give someone a chance, how much an opportunity, how much they might be able to surprise us.

We might be overlooking current and future problem solvers ever because we, we have a certain idea who even even among us women, a certain idea of who can be a problem solver. Um But, you know, let if you hear someone who has a desire to learn, who has a desire to contribute, if you're in a position in any way to give them a chance to do so because you can be, people can surprise us. And really what, what I would love for you to retain is that each of us, no matter where we are, we can be a student, um, early in our careers we advance in our careers. We have opportunity to extend op opportunity, uh, to extend, um, to bring other women into the, the use and, and, um, and of technology, no one is too, uh, it's never too early in your career or never too in your career to make sure that another sister finds her way to this tech world.

Uh, I'm going to stop here and, and see if there's any question. Uh uh Winn Fred. Thank you so much for your interaction. I uh um yes, I do agree. And my goodness, um Thank you for finding, finding this uh uh association for women in, in, in engineering. And these are the types of things that we really do need. Um Yes, talent is ubiquitous. We really do need to have if you, if you are empowered. And one of the things I love about returning to Africa is that all these women are and I was just blown away by what African women have been doing and part of why I've made it to where I have is because of all of the examples that I found when I returned that whether was someone opening a school with really meager funds or someone doing informal training program?

I, I volunteered for woman who had um tech under the tree. We were teaching, um We are using pictures and teaching girls about what computers are the history, what you can do with them drawing. Because, you know, the lady who started didn't have access to a computer, her son um was studying them at university also without a computer. So she wanted to, you know, pass that, pass that knowledge along. So no matter where we are, we can really, we can really share what we have already learned, what we already know and transform uh a life. Uh Is, are there any um questions on your part that I can share whether it's about my own experiences of my career? And now I mentioned that I work with uh the World Health Organization and we're figuring out how to uh use technology in health and really figuring out a way to make sure that more women are at the table as we're developing these solutions that we're using in the health sector.

Uh Figuring out that how to ensure that more women are not just making the decisions, but also developing the programs. Um developing digital literacy is, is some of the, the key aspects we realized that in order to solve health problems, we need to make sure that the people who understand these issues are equipped with the knowledge necessary to address these problems. Yes, Esther, will you tell us how, what led you to um to want to create this association that you founded? If you're still here, it's always interesting to find out what people's motivation um are mine is because I'm, I I know what it's like to grow up in a place where um you really there isn't, you can't even dream because the possibilities that exist are just not presented at all.

Uh And moving to the United States helped solve that. For me, it showed me how much um how opportunities can change, how, how many, how opportunities, how many opportunities actually exist. And I mentioned this teacher of mine and I kept meeting women who were uh in professional setting, women um who were doing way more than I ever thought women could do so. OK, you live in, in, in Charlotte? Yes. And, and I think I, you, you exemplify what I'm talking about where you are in a position where you can um you can share, you can do something about the issues that women are facing all over the world and you decide to take a step and start this. Um or I will check out your, um I'll check out your association if you have online presence, we are about a minute left uh for, for this talk, but I want to thank everyone for joining um for joining me today this evening, for me and um wherever you are, wherever you, you, you, whatever you're doing, please know that you can certainly do something at this point to make sure that you open a door for another woman.

So thank you again for um for joining me today. I look forward to connecting with all of you um at some point, have a good rest of your day and Esther, thank you so much for your engagement. Yes, Esther, please. Um I'm making note, let's, let's connect on linkedin. I'd love to hear more and I'd love to hear more about if you came here. It means that you're, this is of this topic is of interest to you. So I would love to um to hear more about you and what you're doing. And I always open to collaborating and in advancing um each other's work. Uh So please do connect. OK. Well, I'm going to uh respect the time that I was given uh again. Thank you so much for joining me this evening. And uh ah OK. I'm, I'm so sorry when I afraid, I don't know, I have a good friend named Esther. So II I noted um I searched your correct name, don't worry. Oh, goodness. Uh The, the name Esther stood up for me. Um Anyway, well, it's, it was good to meet all of you and enjoy the rest of the conference all the best.