Dimension Data, Britehouse help boost inclusion of young women in IT

Opportunity for South African teams to participate in global app competition for schoolgirls.

Britehouse's inclusive gender empowerment focus has been extended to 70 girls from high schools in the Cape Town area. This has been enabled via a joint sponsorship with Dimension Data, introducing them to the Technovation Challenge and a related Pitch Event. The Technovation Challenge is the world's largest global app-building competition.

Adobe Foundation, CA Technologies, Google, Verizon, United Nations Women, UNESCO, and MIT Media Lab all collaborate on the Technovation Challenge, in which 3 000 girls around the world competed in 2015. Last year's competition was won by a team from Bengaluru, India. Teams selected from around the world on the basis of their app ideas travel to Silicon Valley, where they present their ideas to investors from top IT companies.

The competition is designed to create women IT entrepreneurs.

It is also intended to encourage social entrepreneurship, as entrants are required to design an app that will solve a problem in their community.

The MIT Media Lab technology used by entrants works on a drag-and-drop basis, eliminating the need for software coding, and enabling girls with no technology training to easily develop apps.

"The emphasis is on introducing young women to technology innovation and entrepreneurship," says Zimkhita Buwa, an account manager at Britehouse. "The focus of the introductory event in March was to let the girls know that they can be creators of technology rather than simply consumers, and that their solutions can compete at a global level."

The teams of girls from Cape Town have subsequently been prepared for the competition by coaches at their own schools and by the non-profit organisation (NPO), GirlHype, which is focused on providing fun, hands-on opportunities for girls to engage with technology. The training is based on a 12-week online Technovation curriculum in which the girls learn not only how to design and develop their app, but also how to monetise it, and thereby build a small business.

At the regional Pitch Event, which took place on 30 April – International GirlsinICT Day – the girls pitched their apps to a judging panel made up of senior representatives of Dimension Data, TreeShake, Engen, Groupon, nnfinity, and Siliconcape.

The social problems addressed by the various teams' apps included youth unemployment, financial inclusion, crime, and malnutrition at schools. The winning team was "Absolutely SMT2" from Parklands College, whose SafeLine App provides an easy-to-use platform that connects individuals, communities, the neighbourhood watch, and the police. Placed second were Young Dreamers from COSAT, Khayelitsha. Their NutriFlex app addresses malnutrition via recommendations of healthy meal plans.

Baratang Miya, founder of GirlHype, says Britehouse and Dimension Data's willingness to help the NPO foster high school girls' interest in and development of technology entrepreneurship will help change lives. "Without realising it, the girls have completed the early stages of founding a true mobile app start-up."

The two South African teams are through to the semi-finals, and should they be selected for the finals, they will join those from around the world in pitching for the $10 000 prize in San Francisco from 10 to 14 July.