Abiy who took office in April, has part privatized a number of state owned companies
including telecoms provider Ethio Telecom. It’s a bid to hopefully pave the way for better internet access. The country is seeing huge changes following a government sanctioned internet blackout
that took place prior to Abiy taking office.
One program Dessie leads on at iCog is “Solve IT”, which works with young people to find technological solutions to community based problems.
Dessie travels the length and breadth of the country working with students (some up to five years her senior) to inspire the next generation of innovators and entrepreneurs.
Being younger, she says, means she and other teachers are “more in touch with what the students are experiencing.” In the same way women teaching women can be impactful, she adds, having had the same lived experiences.
Girls are a minority among the students attending “Solve IT”, but for Dessie they have the most to contribute.
“The boys imagine more, they want to do something that’s big and inspired, the girls they really want to help their community from the core,” she explains.
Instead of space rockets and robots, the solutions put forward by the girls she teaches tend to be grounded and immediate – such as an SMS app that informs farmers about local weather conditions.
Dessie’s passion for technology was, for the most part, supported growing up in relatively liberal Harar, but her experience isn’t the norm in Ethiopia.
Teaching the basics of AI
In 2013, women accounted for a quarter of students enrolled in science and technology studies at university; while only eight percent of science researchers are women. “Unless you really are in the industry, there is no one to look up to in technology,” says Dessie, pointing to this lack of female role models.