I have always loved technology, especially in the digital age of the internet. Smartphones and smart laptops are my favorite technological tools. However, I never thought in my wildest dreams that I could have a deep interest in computer technology, in this case, artificial intelligence and data science. Why? someone might ask. Because I felt I wasnt smart enough to be any profession in STEM. At least, that is what I thought a few years back. Now that I think about it, I was a very ambitious in my childhood, especially when I joined high school. In Kenya, there is a special category of high schools reserved for the students who perform very well in their final year primary school exams. They are called national schools. I could say that this is an equivalent of the USA’s ‘Ivy league Schools’ but a high school equivalent in Kenya. Well, I managed to join a national school. Upon joining high school, l I wanted to be a doctor, engineer or an entomologist. The entomologist dream came about after my class visited an insect research center. The researchers found my questions intriguing and advised me to consider entomology as a profession. At the time, technology-related careers were not common. Hence, it never crossed my mind. My ambition then led me to select STEM-related subjects. They included biology, chemistry and physics in addition to the arts.
Fast forward to 2020, I am not in any STEM profession. The reason being, that period of my life was accompanied by external family conflicts that affected my concentration in school. Hence, not getting good grades to take a STEM course at the university. Upon completing high school, I ended up pursuing my second best option. College education that could lead to careers in foreign policy, diplomacy and international affairs with a special focus in peace and security. Sadly, I didn't join university immediately after high school. The financial implication for my family was too much. I ended up taking short computer courses that would enable me to use computer programs like Microsoft word, excel and power-point. At least these would enable me to find paying volunteer opportunities. Later I added graphic design in my portfolio. After completing all my computer courses, I took up volunteering and later worked as an assistant for 2 youth development organizations in Nairobi, Kenya’s capital city. In my two years of volunteering and later working as a youth development assistant, I discovered the power of technology and the internet. Using my first small laptop and the internet, I enrolled in online short courses, participated in online forums and applied for capacity building workshops and training. By 2010, technology had already exposed me to the international arena. This included getting opportunities to speak in various United Nations forums, participating in two international projects and serving as an international organizing committee member for UNESCO’s 2018 and 2019 Global Media and Information Literacy (MIL) Week held annually. I used the money earned from paying projects and speaking opportunities to finally pay for my university education. Without my little laptop and the internet, I would have never had these opportunities, let alone the exposure that came with them.
Today, I have a bachelor's degree in peace and conflict studies and currently enrolled in a Master's program in Security Intelligence and Strategic Studies at a University in the UK. Over the years, my work in peace and security has exposed me to data science analytics. It is for this reason that I have decided to pursue a degree course in security intelligence where I will integrate components of artificial intelligence and data science in my work. I recognize that the digital era has its pros and cons. People have used technology to perpetrate online bullying targeted mainly at women and girls. According to a 2015 report by the UN Broadband Commission for Digital Development Working Group, 73% of women worldwide have experienced cyber violence. A 2016 report in Kenya by the African Development Bank found that young women experience cyber violence that starts from personal hate speech to revenge porn to online intimidation. Perpetrators of organized crime have also gone ahead to use technology to spread propaganda and perpetrate cyber-crime by defrauding women through mobile technology. Women who are not well vast with systems such as online banking. I was once a victim of some of these cyber-crimes. However, there is a bright side to technology. Technology has also provided opportunities for thousands of women like me to broaden our horizons at a personal and a professional level. As a woman embracing technological advancement in my field of expertise, I am happy to apply cutting edge technological solutions that will have a lasting effect in my community, especially in the lives of women and girls. I look forward to being in a better position to diagnose threats that could lead to conflicts and prescribe possible solutions to mitigating those threats. I am excited about my new journey and cant wait to impart valuable skills, knowledge, and information to the next generation of women integrating innovative tech solutions in their lives and in their professional area of expertise.