Author Archives: Samantha

About Samantha

Samantha Perry is the JHB Agency Lead for Irvine Partners, an integrated public relations and marketing agency. She previously worked as a freelance journalist, and has over 20 years' of experience writing for a range of media - print and online - mainly in the ICT sector. She has written for Brainstorm magazine, Mail & Guardian, several niche B2B titles and several corporate clients. She also has a Masters degree in ICT Policy & Regulation, and serves on the IAB SA Marketing Council as the PR rep. She has worked as an independent telecoms researcher for some of the analyst houses in that field and was regularly called upon to comment on telecoms issues in the press. Nowadays she can be found commenting on women in tech issues in the press and speaking at conferences on the subject and the issues women in the sector face.

Women in Tech video series 1 – Rising Above

It’s Women’s Month, and Women in Tech ZA is once again hosting a video series showcasing the ladies of Dell EMC, hosted by our own Samantha Perry.

The first episode can be viewed here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VCpdg2xettk&t=4s

South Africa is celebrating Women’s Month, showcasing its heroines, reflecting on their struggles and triumphs. In honour of Women’s Month, Dell EMC is showcasing eight of the extraordinary women who work in its South African operations.

Emogene Smith, Khulisa Academy co-ordinator, Dell EMC is a single mom to three boys, and the survivor of an abusive relationship. One she was able to walk away from, she says, partly due to the support she got from her boss and colleagues.

“It took some time for me to get to grips, to tell everyone, and speak out. Speaking out is one of the first steps you need to do, and to take a stand,” she says.

Her children, and the need to get them out of a fearful situation, motivated her to make that stand and take those steps.

Reagile Mosaka, account executive, Dell EMC, experienced a different struggle. Born under the Apartheid regime, her father chose to register his children as coloured in order to give them what advantages that could. Named Susan Morgan during her early life, 1994 gave her the courage to reclaim her real name and surname.

She says she felt like she had a different identity at work, and at home and that it was only after school when she reclaimed her name that she could unite those parts of herself, and be the real Reagile.

For both of them, the technology world offers a place they can play to their strengths. For Emogene that is in nurturing the school-age children they take through the Khulisa Academy, which takes children from rural areas with no opportunity to study, teaches them high-performance computing and then finds them jobs. For Reagile, she gets to explore transformation, education, and empowerment, all topics close to her heart and her personal journey.

Helping Dell EMC’s women play to those strengths is the Women in Action Employee Resource Group (ERG). Sabine Dedering regional sales director at Dell EMC, says Women in Action was born out of the idea that both men and women in the IT sector would like to be able to support their colleagues, and help to nurture the next generation of ICT skills through networking and outreach in the community. The ERG hosts regular meetings, including mentoring match-making to connect mentors and mentees inside Dell EMC, and working with colleagues and girls in nearby communities to help them overcome the social stigmas around girls and women being able to do maths and science, and what the tech sector offers them.

The Art of Female Gaming


eSports is one of the fastest growing sporting sectors and could be worth over US$5 billion globally by 2020. But this is not the most interesting aspect of this fast-rising and highly competitive world. Instead, eSports – the competitive play of certain video games for prizes – is proving to be a great magnet for women.

According to a PWC study, even though the gender split among gamers is 50/50, more women identify as professional gamers than men. There are two reasons for this: more women are starting to play games at a young age, thus improving their skills faster, and gaming is an egalitarian sport where strength and other physical advantages do not apply.

This is certainly the experience of Jana “SaltyMonkey” du Toit, captain of Bravado Gaming’s all-female Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO) team, Bravado Finesse: “Anyone who has played games – maybe played Call of Duty with your dad on a console – has a chance at professional gaming. If you’ve played anything, there might be something out there for you. I think many women are just unaware that it’s something that you can do.”

This was certainly her story. Even though Du Toit played games all her life, they were mainly single player and often on consoles. In her twenties, she discovered competitive gaming, which aligned nicely with her competitive nature. An eager sports participant during her school years, Du Toit was one of many whose itch for competition needed a lot of scratching – and esports delivered.

Changing the face of a male scene

But this idea is still foreign to a world that generally regards gamers as loner boys hiding in basements. Such perceptions are changing fast, not the least because new generations have normalised gaming to the same level of movies and music – it’s just something everyone does. But despite being around for more than two decades, female gamers have had a much tougher fight to be recognised.

Du Toit says that at one stage you could expect disparaging behaviour from guys: they either hit on you or make chauvinistic remarks. But  this has been changing in the past few years: “It was very difficult in the beginning. Most people didn’t want to play you because they either didn’t want to lose to girls or they didn’t feel like the skill level was similar or beneficial to them. To a great extent that was true. The skill level wasn’t quite there. But we did find people who were willing to assist us and play us and help us.”

Yet attitudes in South Africa have been changing, she adds, particularly over the last eighteen months. The shift is happening due to a combination of factors: female gamers have shown they can compete and win, games that appeal to women such as Hearthstone have become popular competitive titles, and gaming groups are much more focused on attracting female gamers and treating them as equals.

“It’s become a lot more normal to find girls in gaming and who don’t have the same issues we had before, where guys looked down on you. It is a way friendlier environment. All of a sudden, if I join a game, now I’m hardly ever the only female in the game.”

Serious competitors for a serious sport

This is not an idle pastime. Du Toit and her fellow teammates put in four hours of practice a day, six days a week, while balancing full-time jobs or studies. Their preferred game is CS:GO, which she initially avoided due to its violent gunplay. But the wider appeal of the game – chess-like strategy, viper reflexes and serious team cooperation – drew her and her teammates in.

Today Du Toit and the rest of Bravado Finesse – Kayhla “KayC” Calder, Rachel “rayChillza” van Dyk, Christin “2SSB” Meistre and Carmen Joe “Cjay” Mcleod – have set their sights on the big leagues of eSports.

Says Meistre: “Stereotyping in female gaming, in particular, is: “‘Oh, if a girl spends time sitting at a computer, she’s fat and lazy and typical stereotypes that everyone knows about’. We strive to eradicate this. We are much more than just a female team. We’re a team coming into the scene and wanting to create huge waves.”

A humble dream has evolved into something much bigger for them, Du Toit says. “We started off last year when we formed this team and we wanted to change female gaming for our scene. We wanted to make it acceptable and normalise it. Having achieved something so small and then realise it worked, we realised that we work together as a team and we can dream. For the first time we are dreaming about things like going international, be some of the best players in SA – that is something worth doing. That’s where I realised it’s what I want to do.”

But the fight for recognising female gamers is not over. Attitudes persist. The way to end that debate once and for all is for more women to join the ranks, play well and make their name as the best. This is why Bravado Gaming, sponsored by Dell EMC, Intel and Alienware, has an open invitation to any aspirant players, especially women.

“Put yourself out there. Don’t stop – keep doing it,” are Du Toit’s words of encouragement. “Keep practising every single day. Eventually, it will all get together. Don’t give up and it will work. We love to help female gamers. If there are female gamers who don’t know what to do or have got specific questions or issues, they can reach out to any one of us. We are on social media and we are happy to help.”

Not only is eSports set to become one of the greatest sporting movements in history, but women gamers are poised to be its dominant force. So next time you get beaten by a girl, remember: you’re paving the way for a future champion.

Watch Bravado Finesse at Rush Esports Expo 2018 here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=298UcnhZ9CQ

#InspiringFifty South Africa 2018 nominations open on IWD

Call for nominations are now open for #InspiringFiftySA 2018

This year marks the second edition of #InspiringFiftySA, an initiative that benchmarks and awards the 50 most inspiring women in STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths). In celebration of International Women’s Day, the call for nominations has officially opened. The initiative is by the Consulate General of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Cape Town.

“The African tech ecosystem is growing exponentially. This is re-shaping the South African
economy as technology and innovation are leapfrogging beyond established technology, ideas,
and infrastructure. The instrumental role played by women in this sector should be made more
visible on a local and global level. These women are the inspiring role models for the future.
Inspiring Fifty South Africa allows us to create a platform for these women in technology,
showing our girls that they can do the same,” says Bonnie Horbach, the Netherlands Consul
General in Cape Town. The collaboration forms part of the Dutch campaign in South Africa,
named #cocreateSA.

Last year #InspiringFiftySA received 252 nominations of which fifty amazing women were
awarded the #InspiringFifty accolade. Amongst these women were Adriana Marais, Aisha
Pandor, Nunu Ntshingila, Portia Maurice, Mickey Mashale, Magda Wierzycka and Yolisa Kani.
What makes this award different, is that it includes women who paving the way in government,
education and the corporate space, to empower girls aspiring a career in STEM.

“To be recognised for doing inspiring work is one thing, but to do so while being featured
alongside the amazing Inspiring Fifty SA women was simply incredible! The initiative introduced
me to incredibly smart and bold women who inspired me to continue being the same. The 2017
cohort proved that there’s a plethora of women doing world class work in STEM and I’m only
excited to meet the nominees for Inspiring Fifty SA 2018. I hope the new nominees jump at the
opportunity!” – Lethabo Motswaledi, winner of the 2017 Inspiring Fifty SA and Co-founder of 3D
Power.

“Being an #InspiringFiftySA judge exposed me to a high caliber of women in the SA tech space
that I didn’t even know existed. It was tough to choose as I was in awe of the 270 nominations
from all over SA. I made new connections with very powerful women in Tech. I believe South Africa has a great pool of role models that need to be exposed to girls and #InspiringFiftySA is
doing exactly that,” said Baratang Miya, #InspiringFiftySA 2017 Judge and Founder of GirlHype.

“​#InspiringFiftySA is a valuable initiative which allows young girls and boys from all walks of life
to see role models across the STEM fields who they can aspire to be. It showcases the
abundance of hard work and talent which our country possesses. Personally for me
#InspiringFiftySA gave me access to a network of women who share the same value of making
our country a better place in growing the STEM field,” said Dr Mmaki Jantjies, winner of #InspiringFiftySA and Senior Lecturer and Head of the Department of Information Systems,
Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences, University of the Western Cape.

To meet the criteria, a nominee has to be a founder of a technology company; or hold a position in a C-Level position in a technology company; or be an influencer, academic or politician in the technology or innovation space. Inspiring Fifty encourages South Africans and the technology eco-system to nominate their most inspiring female role models.

To nominate your most inspiring women in tech, visit https://inspiringfifty.awardsplatform.com/
For more information on Inspiring Fifty, visit http://cocreatesa.nl/inspiring-fifty-homepage/

Applications for MEST Class of 2019 close February 15 in South Africa

Applications for MEST Africa‘s fully sponsored 1-year entrepreneurial training program are closing for aspiring South African entrepreneurs on 15th February. Interested applicants have three more days to apply to join the class of 2019 and build global tech businesses alongside successful graduates like Qisimah’s Sakhile Xulu.

Following the graduation of its first cohort of South African Entrepreneurs-in-training (EITs) in August 2017, MEST Africa launched an incubator space in Cape Town, South Africa, and Lagos, Nigeria, in November 2017, in an effort to further solidify its presence in key markets for tech and entrepreneurial talent on the continent.

Today, MEST accepts EITs from Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa and Cote d’Ivoire, all of whom come together for a 1-year intensive training program in Accra, Ghana, with a goal of building globally successful software companies and joining the Pan-African network of MEST incubators to further grow their businesses.

“We’re extremely excited to continue to show our commitment to the South African market with the launch of our new incubator space and the 2018 ZA recruitment drive. Cape Town is certainly home to an enormous amount of ambitious tech talent with massive potential, and we are working towards delivering access to opportunities for startups and entrepreneurs from across the region,” said MEST Managing Director Aaron Fu. “Through our pan-African training program, we want to enable the collaboration and interaction and thus make trans-Africa startups happen more.”

Successful applicants will spend a year at MEST HQ in Accra starting from August 2018, taking part in an intensive entrepreneurial training program centred around business, communications and software development. Training includes extensive hands-on project work and the opportunity to be mentored by successful entrepreneurs, CEO’s and other executives from all over Silicon Valley and Europe. The program culminates in a final pitch and the chance to receive seed investment and grow a tech business as part of the Pan-African network of MEST incubators in Lagos, Accra, Nairobi and Cape Town. Applications for South Africa close February 15, 2018.

Since inception, MEST has invested over $20million in training more than 400 individual entrepreneurs and invested in 40+ technology companies from across Africa. MEST entrepreneurs have developed solutions addressing local, regional and global markets, received follow-on funding from global investors, and gotten into top accelerator programs such as Y-combinator, 500 startups and TechStars.

To learn more about the MEST offering and what makes an ideal candidate, visit http://meltwater.org/get-involved/become-an-eit/

Application Process:

GirlCode to launch Digital Academy and incubator programme

The social enterprise aims to impact 10 million females across Africa by 2030, through strategic partnerships, training initiatives, and mentorship and networking programmes

GirlCode, a social enterprise that aims to empower young girls and women through technology, launched its 2018 programme and Vision 2030 statement, at a breakfast event in Melrose Arch last week.

Among the initiatives planned for 2018 are the expansion of the annual hackathon and training workshops, as well as the launch of the Digital Academy, the GirlCoder Club, the GirlCode Accelerator Programme and the GirlCode Incubator initiative.

From humble beginnings

GirlCode was founded in 2014 as a female-only hackathon in a male-dominated industry. The first hackathon attracted 20 participants and one sponsor and has since become an annual event, with this year’s hackathon attracting 117 participants and seven sponsors, including Standard Bank, Boxfusion, Entelect and MTN.

The compounding success of each hackathon lead to the growth of GirlCode into a platform that engages women in tech, facilitates their skills development and encourages them to join the tech revolution.

Addressing the gender gap

According to the Intel Women and the Web report, nearly 25% fewer women are online than men. In Sub-Saharan Africa, the gap rises to 43%. And McKinsey reports that women comprise just 16% of all executive-level positions at technology companies in Africa.

Speaking at the event, which was attended by corporate executives and public sector representatives, Zandile Keebine, GirlCode Founder, said: “We have to be intentional in our efforts and committed to bringing opportunities to girls in rural areas and disadvantaged communities. Technology is increasingly becoming part of our lives, making digital literacy fundamental for everyone. With half the population being female, if we don’t start upskilling girls today, it means we’re leaving half of our potential IP out of the solutions we should be creating. It’s not enough for girls to simply play with technology; we have to encourage them and give them the chance to understand, create and work with it.”

GirlCode’s plans for 2018 include:

  • Expansion of the annual hackathon to Cape Town and Durban – in addition to the long-standing Johannesburg event. Next year’s hackathon will be hosted between 3 and 5 August 2018, and girls will be encouraged to solve challenges for SMEs and orphanages. The winning team will be sent to the Women in Tech Conference, in Amsterdam. Corporates will also be able to white-label hackathon events and tap into female tech talent and knowledge to solve business problems.
  • Expansion of the GirlCode workshops, which provides girls with valuable skills training in everything from HTML and Java to presentation skills, design thinking and WordPress, in the run-up to the hackathon.
  • The launch of the Digital Academy, which will provide unemployed women who have had no or little exposure to technology with basic computer skills training, as well as CV and interview guidance, over two weeks. The goal is to broaden their skills so that they can broaden their job opportunities.
  • The launch of the GirlCoder Club, which will teach high schoolgirls how to code in weekend classes facilitated by unemployed Computer Science graduates.
  • The launch of a 10-month GirlCode Accelerator programme, which will give girls the opportunity to gain real-world experience, be bridging the gap between academic learning and work-ready skills. The initial intake will be 30 girls.
  • The launch of the GirlCode Incubator, a 24-month mentorship programme focusing on marketing, operations, innovation, finance and self-mastery, to help girls grow their businesses.
  • Quarterly speed dating sessions between girls and mentors in the industry, in an effort to expand their networks.

Also speaking at the event, GirlCode team mentor and public policy director for Africa at Cisco Systems, Charmaine Houvet, said: “In Africa, just 5% of CEOs in the tech industry are women, which I think is a tragedy. We need to push harder for more female leaders to progress within any environment – it’s not just the right thing to do; it’s also a social and economic imperative. The National Development Plan 2030 states that we need to create 11 million jobs by 2030. These jobs won’t come from corporates but from advocacy groups like GirlCode that are actively doing something about youth unemployment and are driving the entrepreneurial agenda.”

Vision 2030

GirlCode’s vision is to impact 10 million women across Africa in 10 years, starting with getting young girls interested in STEM, and to become the largest female digital academy. It aims to do this through strategic partnerships with the public sector; strengthening collaboration with similar organisations; and leveraging corporate assets in the development of ICT facilities, infrastructure and networks within schools in disadvantaged communities.

“We’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the future and how we see GirlCode playing a critical role in making it happen. Our vision is to reach as many girls as possible – regardless of age or location – to create a network of women who can help create a more inclusive industry that solves real-world problems. They say the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago and that the next best time is now. At GirlCode, we believe the best time to start getting girls interested in tech is now,” says Keebine.

One million maths exercises completed on Siyavula’s online learning platform

One million maths exercises completed on Siyavula’s online learning platform

[Cape Town] 25 October 2017: Learners in Grades 8-12 around the country completed one million maths exercises on Siyavula Education’s online learning platform in October – meeting the target of the #1MillionMaths Challenge ahead of schedule, one week before 31 October. The #1MillionMaths Challenge was launched by Siyavula and Google.org at the end of September in a nation-wide drive to promote maths revision and practice for final exams. Siyavula made its platform accessible for free to every single learner in Grades 8-12 in Sout

Siyavula maths challenge participants

h Africa both during and after the challenge – removing the R599 annual subscription fee until 15 December. This means that the huge numbers of learners who signed on to use the tool for free in October will still be able to benefit until after exams are over. But the really big news is that this is just a taste of things to come: the first 150,000 users from low-fee public schools will receive free access for the entirety of 2018 thanks to sponsorship from Google.org, which gave Siyavula a $1.5 million grant in July this year.

To stand a chance to receive one of the 150 000 Google-sponsored subscriptions for 2018, learners can visit the Siyavula website at www.siyavula.com, register for a trial account and redeem the following access code: siyavula-one-million-maths. This code will grant them premium access until 15 December. There are still two more weeks of prizes to be given out, including iPads, Samsung Galaxy phones, airtime, vouchers and the grand prize of a MacBook laptop. We invite learners to join the Siyavula Facebook page to monitor our progress and stay up to date.

MTN announces winners of Women in ICT Partnership for Change Awards

MTN last week announced the winners in the second annual Women in ICT Partnership for Change Awards at a glittering event held in Sandton.

The Awards were hosted by MTN in partnership with Kagiso Media and ITWeb Brainstorm and seek to accelerate the participation of women in the sector through recognising and rewarding those who have made a significant contribution to it.

The Leadership Recognition Award went to Carol Thomas, CIO of the South African Civil Aviation Authority. Technical director at Aurecon Rene Pearson won the Innovator Recognition Award. The SME Recognition Award went to Matua Ramapuputla, CEO of Moepi Publishing. Founder of The Click Foundation Martine Shaffer, won the Community Builder Recognition Award.

Dr HF Swanepoel, who was unfortunately not on hand to receive her award, won the Lifetime Achiever Award. Dr Swanepoel is the Chief Technologist at Eskom Group’s Technology Engineering Division.

ITWeb’s Paula Gilbert and Simnikiwe Mzekandaba jointly won the Excellence in ICT Journalism Award. MTN’s Group CEO and President Rob Shuter handed the CEO’s Award to MTN employee Fatima Mayet. Awards judge Charmaine Houvet from Cisco won the Ministerial Recognition Award.

 

MTN announces Women in ICT – partnership for Change Wards finalists

Following an intense review process, involving hundreds of nominations, members of the adjudication panel have selected the top three entries in each category that will be vying for this year’s MTN Women in ICT – Partnership for Change Awards.

This is the second year that MTN, in partnership with Kagiso Media’s Jacaranda FM and East Coast Radio as well as ITWeb’s Brainstorm, is hosting the Awards.

This initiative seeks to accelerate women’s participation in the ICT sector by celebrating and rewarding women professionals who have made a significant contribution towards the growth and development of the sector. In doing so, this initiative also aims to enhance the industry’s employer value proposition by attracting and encouraging girl children and young aspirant female professionals to consider a profession in the industry.

The adjudication panel worked until the weekend to whittle down the entries to the top three nominees in each category. The three shortlisted candidates in each category are as follows.

Leadership Recognition Award: recognises senior female executives in the ICT sector whose proven depth of experience in leading change, influencing business outcomes and leading teams has impacted positively on the organisations they lead. The shortlisted candidates in this category are:

  1. Carol Thomas

  2. Dr Madelise Grobler

  3. Mmamathe Makhekhe-Mokhuane

Innovator Recognition Award: recognises women who have introduced new methods, ideas, or products that are contributing in one way or the other to the delivery of a bold, new, digital world. The candidates are:

  1. Caroline Macharia
  2. Lindiwe Matlali
  3. Rene Pearson

SME Recognition Award: recognises wholly-owned, women-run enterprises that are viable businesses making inroads in the ICT sector. This is also extended to MTN employees who run their own enterprises on the side, using ICT to enable their businesses. The candidates are:

  1. Matau Ramapuputla
  2. Nomsa Makhanda
  3. Sivashni Moodley

Community Builder Recognition Award: recognises a woman who has made a considerable difference in her community through ICT, or use of an ICT tool to make a difference in the community. The candidates in this category are:

  1. Baratang Miya
  2. Gomolemo Motlhwai
  3. Martine Schaffer

Lifetime Achiever Recognition Award (Women Pioneer): recognises a woman who has longstanding success in the ICT industry, has demonstrated a remarkable entrepreneurial spirit, and has continually stayed ahead of the curve. The shortlisted candidates in this category are:

  1. Baratang Miya

  2. Dr HF Swanepoel
  3. Felleng Sekha

Excellence in ICT Journalism Award: this category seeks to recognise a journalist who has contributed immensely to creating a better understanding of the ICT industry through her reporting. The candidates are:

  1. Loni Prinsloo

  2. Paula Gilbert
  3. Simnikiwe Mzekandaba

CEO’s Award: this award recognises an MTN employee who has made a difference within the organisation with the use of ICT and Technology. The shortlisted candidates are:

  1. Fatima Mayet
  2. Lerato Sebata
  3. Prudence Mokone

In addition to the categories listed above, a significant female ICT professional, whose contribution has helped to bridge the digital divide and facilitate access to telecommunication services, will be announced at the gala awards event later this month.

Says Graham de Vries, Executive Corporate Services at MTN SA: “We are delighted with the progress we have made in once again celebrating the excellence and distinction of women in the information and communications sector. The selection process was very challenging due to the high caliber of nominations received. As we continue to celebrate Women’s Month, and the strides that women have made in all spheres of life, it is humbling and gratifying that MTN, in partnership with Kagiso Media, also celebrates remarkable women who are making a mark in this technical and competitive industry.”

The winners will be announced at a gala event that will be hosted in Johannesburg on 31 August 2017.  Remember to follow the conversation on twitter: #MTNWIICT2017.