Transformative Effects of Women, Youth and Technological Innovation
Today, May 1st, the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars will host a conference entitled African Women and Youth as Agents of Change through Technology and Innovation. This conference, co-hosted by the African Technology Policy Studies Network, will present examples of technology innovation by women and youth in Africa, as well as discuss the critical role of leadership and innovation mentorship for sustaining future generations on the continent, enabling a brighter future.
Additional discussion on the role of technology and innovation relating not only to development, but to the status and participation of women and youth, is timely. The past decade has seen exponential growth in adoption of increasingly available and context-specific ICT solutions across the African continent. Many citizens and civil society groups have begun to demonstrate the vast potential of technology to improve several key sectors and daily realities of life in developing countries. Early targeted innovations in ICT have started to foster improvements in the accountability of government, generated new areas of economic opportunity, facilitated more savvy participation in local markets, and advancement of gender equity. Locally-developed models for future engagement of people and markets through technology in the developing world abound; these should have of attention of the development community, to provide evaluation and investment in the most promising models. Local technology innovators have the potential to create beneficial systems for their users, installing predictability and accountability into areas which previously were undermanaged or not available to common citizens (the success of M-Pesa in Kenya, and a recent new business offering, comes to mind). Perhaps most critically, extant and emergent uses of ICT are creating fissures in long-standing traditional political and social power dynamics, empowering economic participation and vast numbers women and youth to have their voices and concerns heard. The upcoming conference at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars seeks to examine how to and with what resources, women and youth can become effective change agents in their own communities and continue to strive towards social equity and economic well-being.