Digital tools have completely transformed my life and my ways of getting things done. From online meetings and events to paying the bills and online shopping, there is an increasing need for me to constantly be online to maximize technology and the internet for increased productivity. There are increasing applications improving my work and collaboration online. And the innovation continues to grow everyday as technology and the internet continues to make my life and work easier. While I have the privilege of understanding the power of technology to improve my productivity, many women and girls lack the knowledge and their phones still fail to serve additional purposes outside calls, messaging, and social media. This informs my passion for digital empowerment for women and girls. The capacity for more women and girls to use their phones for additional purposes of scheduling and attending meetings and events, paying their bills, shopping online, learning new skills or increasing their education, and even online advocacy and campaigns will go a long way to improve women’s lives and productivity while saving them stress from long queues at the banks and utility agencies to pay bills or leaving their families to advance their education or travelling long distances to buy things they can simply order online. Technology certainly makes our lives and work simpler.
The COVID-19 pandemic sure revolutionized life and work. And Africa was not left out in the global revolution. Although internet connectivity did not improve, neither did the cost of data improve; If anything, the situation worsened and the pressure to meet up with work demands online was even higher and it was up to individual or corporate capacity to explore as many internet service providers as affordable to ensure a variety of options to guarantee the expected work demands online. In keeping up with the series of Zoom meetings and events, there were instances where I toggled between my WiFi and mobile hotspot just to ensure that there were no interruptions to my work due to poor internet connectivity. Through it all, there are good days and still bad days that cannot be avoided. But it is fruitful to have been able to keep working despite the pandemic and the resulting lockdowns around the world. I was able to keep my staff connected and working online; we had our weekly staff meeting via Zoom and kept up communication via email and Whats App. Although we had no physical contact with our girls, we were able to gather our tech girls in a Whats App group and challenge them to develop small groups and hack solutions to the impact of the COVID-19 lockdown on girls. The online hackathon was productive with the girls exploring design thinking, research, and coding mobile apps that they designed to help girls report gender-based violence as well as school dropouts and child early or forced marriage. This is a proud development for vulnerable girls who lack access to electronic devices and can only participate in such activities through their parents’ or siblings’ phone, tablet, or computer. The girls who were able to code with their computers used the laptops they won during the last physical hackathon pitch event during our TechTackle Program last year. Recounting other contributions of technology to my life and work, our organization won a global award as the Gold winner in the category of the Next Generation Workplace by the Business Council of Peace. The award event was scheduled to hold in New York and recognize winners and some of our mentees, but the award ceremony ended up holding online with over 200 people in attendance from all over the world. It was a surreal experience to participate in the event and be celebrated despite the social distancing guidelines that prevented the physical event. I also recall participated in another women’s leadership event that included break-out sessions on Zoom and truly mimicked the power of smaller groups and the plenary that harmonizes the feedback and learning from the groups. I also treasure the weekly Thriving Thursday calls that we hold on Zoom that brings together World Pulse Ambassadors from various parts of the world in a powerful 1-hour call that helps us connect with our global efforts to rise above the pandemic and training on tools and skills to help us navigate the season and the experiences that come with it as well as the forward-thinking ideas to help us emerge from this experience successfully. The moments when we just connect to appreciate one another and share the good things we celebrate or learn from this experience helps us to truly thrive as a tribe of sisters.
Digital security continues to be a huge concern for anyone that engages with technology and the internet and must be constantly adhered to. I did not suffer any threat during the pandemic, but I have experienced an email hack in the past. So, I practice some digital security steps from time to time to change my passwords periodically, then, I always sign out of online spaces that I sign into, so I am not exposed. Also, I never use the option of ‘remember me’ when I sign into online spaces, so I don’t expose myself to potential threats online. And I delete emails or social media invites that look sketchy without opening them. The two-step authentication also helps to protect me online including on Whats App. These are just some of the digital security practices I maintain to keep me safe online.
Technology is the future of the world. While I think the world always knew this, it took a global pandemic to remind us of the urgency of technology education and internet access for everyone. There are several measures being taken by individuals, groups, organisations, institutions, governments and other entities to close the technology and internet gap in response to the COVID-19 pandemic but we all need sustainable strategies to help us navigate the future that is highly dependent on these tools to work. The world needs technology and the internet and we can all collaborate to make it happen! Yes, we can!