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Women Make Their Mark on Kenya's Expanding Tech Sector

BY Julia Wetherell | Thursday, January 3 2013

What’s the best way to get women engaged in tech? In Nairobi, home to a burgeoning African Silicon Alley, women are implementing tech culture on their own. A NPR story from late last month dropped in on the Akirachix, an all-female collective of programmers and technologists who are collaborating to tackle social issues in Kenya.

As Africa becomes increasingly wired, IT has permeated all levels of society throughout much of the continent. Mobile dominates, with simple SMS programs taking a transformative role in education, disaster relief, personal finance, and activism. M-Farm, a SMS service that allows rural farmers to check crop prices independent of corrupt middlemen and fixers, is the brainchild of 25-year old Susan Oguya, one of the profiled Akirachix. She was inspired to help agricultural workers like her parents in Western Kenya, and now manages a staff of 18 in her company’s Nairobi office.

With a tech culture flourishing in Kenya, major companies have come calling; IBM is recruiting heavily in the country this year, and Google has been in Nairobi since 2008. While many women in the NPR story cite difficulty rising through the ranks in a male-dominated field — a familiar story in tech hubs throughout the world — banding together has given them solidarity and leverage that has driven innovation. Power in numbers could keep the glass ceiling at bay as Kenya’s tech sector grows.

Personal Democracy Media is grateful to the Omidyar Network for its generous support of techPresident's WeGov section.