The 4th edition of the monthly Coffee & Circumvention (C & C) meet-ups  held at the Aiivon Innovation Hub, Abuja on Thursday, January 23rd in collaboration with Clean Technology Hub Innovation Centre (CTH). To put it simply, it was quite a blast. 

Tackling the theme: Defining a Sustained Digital Advocacy for Climate Emergency in Nigeria, TechHer’s Peter Akinnusi and Chidinma Ejike of CTH moderated the sessions, laying down a marker for the rest of the evening’s gripping conversations. 

Peter gave a brief overview of TechHer’s passion to see technology put to use for honourable causes and shared the idea behind C&C, before Daramfon Bassey took the responsibility of enlightening the audience about CTH. He further encouraged everyone in attendance to take a moment to make new friends. This call worked magic, with strangers bonding and the stage set for the day’s discourse. 

As is always the case at C & C, the crowd warmed up pretty quickly to the conversations, engaging in various ways about how digital platforms can be utilized in addressing emerging and imminent environmental crises in Nigeria.

A screening of the short film, Nowhere to Run, which summed up the emerging environmental time bomb that’s ticking globally, highlighted the dire state of things. As with the rest of the world, Nigeria’s coastline and habitat are in the throes of  varying degrees of climate actions. These are sure to result in fatal outcomes if left unchecked. The screening left no doubt that at this rate we’ll all soon have nowhere to run to pretty soon. 

Climate emergency experiences

Participants invited to share individual experiences regarding climate change. Folahon Johnson, and Bofamene Joseph respectively narrated how their childhood communities have all been affected by destructive human activities which have contributed to degrading the environment. For Folahon, mining activities in his Jos - Plateau State neighbourhood have resulted in erosion, and deep gullies while Bofamene narrated how the vanishing coastlines of her Bayelsa community are a nightmare come to life. Others recalled the earth tremor incidents around the Mpape area of Abuja as another case of climate emergency staring us in the face.

Ify Malo, CEO/Co-founder Clean Technology Hub, noted that the prevailing  aggravated temperature around the country is enough signal that things are going out of hand, wondering why the government is hesitant in tackling this issue. Environmental pollution and improper waste management were also identified as other reasons causing problems to the environment and other health related complications. 

The role of digital advocacy in Nigeria’s climate emergency

With the government's lethargic attitude towards environmental challenges flagged, the need for citizens to step in becomes critical using digital technology as a means for advocacy. 

Participants debated the best approaches toward realising the ambition. They resolved on building a community of advocates, with the mandate of articulating an action plan for digital advocacy. The advocacy, it was agreed, would be approached on both the online and offline fronts. The former was meant to involve creating hashtags, tweetchats, creating engaging content and co-opting celebrities & influencers to join in amongst other content-oriented approaches. For the offline charge, participants agreed that conventional media, volunteers  and religious leaders ought to be involved in the campaign. 

Going forward

Before winding up, a comprehensive database of climate and clean energy advocates was suggested as a way to arm stakeholders to track progress and support each other in the cause .

The key take-away from the meet-up was the resolution for attitudinal change from participants who also agreed with the suggestion to create a WhatsApp Group dedicated to the purpose of the advocacy. 

CTH’s Kolawole and Peter (again) came up to thank everyone for coming out to have such a great conversation, stressing that the opportunity to collaborate was open to all and sundry. The event then rounded up with some networking and of course further indulgence in the refreshment that was available. 

Judging from the passion of the contributors, it is safe to say that a climate change army exists. Equally as important, is the excitement to create a bold new world as we look forward to the next edition of C & C.

On the 31st of October, 2019, TechHer commenced on an ambitious tour to train 700 selected students from 10 schools across 4 of the 6 area councils in Abuja.

The tour is in line with two of TechHer’s main pillars which focus on digital literacy and digital security. The main objectives of the tour are to open the students, all of whom lived in underserved communities around the FCT, to career opportunities within Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) fields. We also want to show the students the safe and acceptable ways they can navigate and use ever-evolving technologies.

Our modules, Basics of Online Security (BOSE) and Career Opportunities in Tech (COT) are delivered in 90-minute fun, interactive sessions with games, and questions and answers.

So far, we have visited 6 of the 10 selected schools; JSS Idu-koro, JSS Karmo-Tsoho, JSS Jiwa, JDSS Jiwa, JSS Yimi and JSS DeiDei. The tour has been a very exciting and eye-opening experience for us at TechHer. It has been quite a thrill to see the children go from knowing almost nothing about technology and online safety and engagement to being able to speak confidently on the fundamentals of these subjects!

At every school, one of the first things we ask the children is what they wanted to be when they grow up. Normal responses range from doctors to lawyers and a few other careers in between. To our surprise, out of over 379 students, only two have indicated interest in careers in STEM fields! Our COT module was designed to show them the opportunities that exist in these fields and we were very happy to see that a majority of them (59%) said they were now interested in studying careers in STEM fields after we had delivered the module!

Another point of interest for us is the children’s access and use of technology and the Internet. There was very little access to technology and even less online access among the students, many did not even know what the term ‘online’ meant! We found this a bit surprising because most of the schools had a computer club or some version of it. Although some of the terms in our BOSE module were completely new to them, we were very excited that the students were equipped with the basics of how to stay safe and protect their information online before the time came.

The school tour resumes next year with 4 more schools left to visit. We are really looking forward to interacting with the children!

You can see more pictures from the tour here.

Oluwatoyin Yetunde Sanni is a Nigerian software developer, engineer and blogger with a passion to leverage technology to tackle challenges in Nigeria and the rest of the world.

She is the co-founder of Tech-in-Pink, an initiative dedicated to diversifying the tech workforce and making university-aged women successful in programming through mentoring and support of women who want to get into technology. She also co-organizes the Lagos Women in Machine Learning and Data Science events to get more women into the AI field.

She has a in computer science from the University of Illorin, Nigeria along with certificates from Udacity in Machine Learning Engineering (Artificial Intelligence) and from Coursera in Neural Networks and Deep Learning. She is currently pursuing a master’s degree in Artificial Intelligence and Robotics from the Sapienza Università di Roma.

Following her interest in computers as a child, Yetunde took up programming as a way to solve traffic related issues in Nigeria, specifically in Lagos. She previously worked as a fullstack developer with Andela where her duties involved building software solutions for different Andela partners across the globe.

In 2016, she won the Toptal STEM scholarship for Women and in 2017, Innov8tiv listed her as one of the 50 visionary women in tech to watch in 2017.

Yetunde has extensive experience as developer and programmer, having worked for several notable tech companies throughout her professional career. From 2012 to 2015, she worked with Landmark University in Omu-Aran, Kwara State, as an IT support and Technologist. She was a full stack developer at Hooch, New-York from Oct. 2015- Jan. 2016. She went on to work as a full stack developer at 500px, Canada from March 2016-April 2016. Yetunde joined Awasu Design, a design and strategy team based in San Francisco, as a full stack developer in July 2016. She has also had jobs as a sotware engineer and a ruby on rails developer. She co-founded Tech in Pink in 2016 with fellow Andela programmer, Gertrude Nyenyeshi to help share and teach young people, particularly girls, how to build and solve problems through code/technology.

She was part of the team that built ‘Ayewa’ — an application aimed at solving accommodation problems for students within a geographical region, which she calls her favorite.

Why TechHer Loves Her:

Yetunde believes in the necessity of a diverse and tech workforce. She believes that the industry at large will only benefit as more and more women enter the tech industry. Through her work with Tech in Pink and other volunteer organisations, she is working to ensure that this diversity becomes a reality.

She says, “If you’re a woman and you want to work in tech, I wouldn’t let stories about a “brogrammer” culture deter you. Instead, focus on your craft, because your skills will speak louder than your gender.”

Even on an impressive list of women doing ground-breaking work in the areas of science, technology and innovation for development and change in East Africa, Dr. Dorothy Okello’s name and achievements still stand out.

A Ugandan engineer, academic, and activist, Dr. Okello has made it her life’s work to increase the inclusion and participation of women in using information and communication technologies (ICTs) to address development challenges in Uganda.

She is the founder of Women of Uganda Network (WOUGNET), a platform with a mission to promote and support the use of information and communication technologies by women and women organizations in Uganda. WOUGNET works to create a society in which women are empowered through the use of ICTs for sustainable development.

Dr. Okello holds a B.Sc. in Engineering (Electrical - First Class Hons.) from Makerere University, the first woman to graduate with a first class in the male-dominated Electrical Engineering department at her university at the time. She also has a M.Sc. in Electrical Engineering from the University of Kansas, United States (Fulbright Scholar), and a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from McGill University, Montreal, Canada (Canadian Commonwealth Scholarship Recipient). She is the immediate past president of the Uganda Institution of Professional Engineers (UIPE), the first woman to hold the position and has served on the UIPE Council since 2010. She is a member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), and served on the 2018 IEEE Ad Hoc Committee on Activities in Africa (AHCAA). She has also served as a Commissioner and an Interim Chairperson with Uganda Communications Commission (UCC), where she also served as Chairperson for the Rural Communications Development Fund (RCDF). She is also an Adjunct Member of Faculty at the Institute of Technology in Carlow, Ireland.

From 2008-2009, she was a Member of the Strategy Council for the United Nations Global Alliance for ICT and Development. Dr. Okello worked as an Assistant Lecturer in the Department of Electrical Engineering at Makerere University and as a Lecturer in College of Engineering, Design, Art and Technology (CEDAT) from 1998-2013, where she taught courses on Information and Communication Technology, Telecommunication Systems and Wireless Propagation. She became a Senior lecturer at Makerere University in May 2013.

She is presently the Dean, School of Engineering, College of Engineering, Design, Art and Technology (CEDAT), Makerere University where she is also a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. She is a Researcher with netLabs!UG, a research center within the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering that seeks to be a leader in collaborative research, development and solutions on innovative telecommunication and networking technologies with a goal to strengthen the innovation ecosystem in Uganda and across East Africa.

In addition, she is the Director of Innovation, ResilientAfrica Network (RAN) hosted by Makerere University. Supported by USAID, RAN is a multi-disciplinary network of 18 Sub-Saharan African universities that seek to identify, develop and scale innovative solutions in science and technology to strengthen the resilience of African communities.

Dr. Okello has been recognized with a number of international and national awards over the years including as a ‘Top ICT Woman – Uganda ICT Excellence Awards 2009’ organized by the Uganda ICT Forum. She has been featured in 12 Top Technology People in East Africa who are technologists with a social twist by Enterprise Technology Magazine, September 2012. She received the Women Achievers Award in 2012 for enhancing women’s empowerment through Science & Technology. In 2013, she became Africa’s first-ever Digital Woman of the Year, an award given to her at the Africa ICT Days gala ceremony for the Digital Woman Award finalists that took place in Yaoundé, Cameroon. In 2014, she was selected as a Vital Voices Fellow for distinguished emerging and established women leaders who promote women and girls’ progress.

Why TechHer Loves Her:

In addition to being activist in the area of getting more women engaged in the information society, science and technology for development, Dr. Okello has and continues to break through the glass ceiling in male dominated spaces. She continually sets the standard for what women working in science and technology in Africa can achieve.

In partnership with HeirWoman, TechHer hosted a self-defence class for women and girls which held at Jabi Lake Park on the 23rd of November, 2019.

Both organisations thought it pertinent and urgent even, to teach women practical ways to protect themselves, especially considering the rising cases of violence and harassment against women in Nigeria and the world at large.

We had instructors from the acclaimed BodyRox Fitness Studio in Abuja teach us how to thwart attacks and deter would-be attackers.

We had a great time and the women went away with their self-confidence boosted and each participant went away with a free can of pepper spray!

The third edition of Coffee and Circumvention was our liveliest one yet! Maybe it had something to do with the fact that we actually had coffee this time?  I dunno, but it was such incredible fun!

TechHer’s Mya Agu kicked things off with brief introductions and a shout out to our co-collaborator Kim’s Coffee, represented at the event by the lovely Sainaan.

Things were off to a great start as the participants gave varying, mostly humorous answers to the question of what they considered trolling to be. We had some people who considered receiving hurtful comments or having an opinion or belief attacked online to be trolling.  Mya, who led the conversation, cleared the confusion by  giving out one the most popularly accepted definitions of trolling, “Trolling is defined as creating discord on the internet by starting quarrels or upsetting people by posting inflammatory or off topic messages in on online community. Basically, a social media troll is some who purposely says something in order to get a rise out of other uses.”

The conversation only got more interesting from there! There were varying opinions on how to deal with trolls, whether to engage or just ignore them (on this, a lot of people suggested that the block button on Social Media was made specifically for this purpose!)

The discussions got even more animated when Mya posed the question as to whether there was anything as ‘good’ trolling or it was all bad. The room was divided on this front – some people considered all trolling to be bad while others said some people deserved to be trolled for the kind of things they post online. At some point in the discussions, someone suggested that trolls were sometimes necessary online as they kept things interesting. 

The most recurrent question of the evening was - how exactly do you deal with trolls? Although they were a LOT of different answers and opinions, everybody agreed that it was important to protect yourself and your space online, whether it meant blocking offensive accounts, ignoring trolls or responding to them graciously. Everybody also agreed that responding with humor, if you can, was one of the best ways to counter trolls! 

All in all, this was our best C&C yet and that could not have been possible without the valuable, insightful and humorous contributions of our participants!

Needless to say, we are eagerly looking forward to the next one!

Kehinde Oni is a world class full stacker developer and computer programmer with exceptional skill in JavaScript and Ruby on Rails. Her resume includes work with some of the biggest tech companies in the world, including Microsoft and Atlas.

She is a graduate of the University of Ilorin with a degree in Mathematics.

In 2010, Kehinde was an Exchange Programme Intern at AIESEC Ghana where she volunteered for a period of 1 month. She was part of a team that organized a workshop themed, "Project YES (Young Entrepreneurs)" was aimed at empowering undergraduates in tertiary institutions.

In April 2015, she worked with other team members to develop a Civic Graph, an open source, crowdsourced knowledge base and data visualization project. It aims to map the civic tech community players and connections -- their types, locations and levels of influence in an interactive, intuitive, and modern way.

In July 2015, she worked on a project called Executer. Executer is a mobile App that uses scheduled information from your Google Calendar to figure out where you are and where you need to be at any point in time. It then helps you to schedule an Uber pick up with enough time for you to make it to your next appointment just in time.

From August 2015-Dec 2016, Kehinde served as the Vice President for SheLovesCode. SheLovesCode is an initiative of the female developers working at Andela. It was born out of the apparent gender gap in Andela and the tech world generally.

She is a member of AIESEC. Kehinde eagerly desires to launch her start up with the intent to empower Nigerian children to follow career paths of their own choosing.

She currently works as a Software Developer at Andela.

Why TechHer Loves Her:

Kehinde is smart, intelligent and self- motivated. Thriving in technology can sometimes be a bit difficult for women in Africa but she has made a name for herself in the tech space.

Aisha Bello is a systems engineer, tech enthusiast and acclaimed ‘Pythonista’ with a passion to help other girls utilize the immense, unexploited opportunities in Technology.

She is a member of Pyladies, an international mentorship group which focuses on helping more women become active participants in the Python open-source community. She is also an organizer for DjangoGirls in Africa. Django Girl is a non-profit organization that empowers and helps women by organizing free, one-day programming workshops by providing tools, resources and support. She has helped co-organize and support a number of Django Girls workshops in Namibia and Nigeria.

She also serves as vice-chair for the Python Nigeria community. She is enthusiastic about the Python community and has a strong desire for social change, women’s tech education and empowerment in Africa.

She is a graduate of Bells University of Technology, after which she furthered her education in Information Technology from Cardiff Metropolitan University. She is a certified Cisco Networking Associate.

Miss Bello worked as a Software Development Intern from February 2012 - August 2012 at CBC EMEA.  While working with them, she validated data to ensure the quality, validity and accuracy of content and worked extensively with development teams, investigating and correcting software bugs and deficiencies based on the testing results.

Between June 2014 and Jan 2015, she worked as a Technical sales representative at Complete Digital Limited in Lagos where she proffered recovery solutions and enterprise wireless networks solutions to partners and vendors. She also designed, supervised, monitored and gathered technical content for the company’s e-Commerce Website.

In 2015, she volunteered with Djangogirls and organized Django Girls Windhoek and Django Girls Lagos in 2016.

Aisha has received several honors and awards including the 2016 Malcolm Tredinnick Memorial Prize from Django Software Foundation.

Aisha currently works with Cisco as an Associate System Engineer with the responsibilities of covering routing and switching. She also provides pre-sales technical support for Cisco Sales teams and partners.

Why TechHerLoves Her:

Aisha’s vibrancy and enthusiasm are highly contagious!  She has contributed greatly to the tech community by giving back to other women who are trying to get a foot in the Tech space.  Well done Aisha!

In 2010, Dr. Nneka Mobisson’s lost her father following complications from a massive stroke. That personal tragedy opened her eyes to the huge gap in Africa’s healthcare support system and a few years later, she launched mDoc Healthcare, a revolutionary digital health social enterprise.

mDoc is a digital health company that aims to dramatically improve access to high quality healthcare by leveraging technology to make life better for people living with chronic health care needs. mDoc utilizes the growing penetration of mobile phone technology in Africa by connecting people living with chronic disease with a multi-disciplinary team of healthcare practitioners. Patients can receive personalized support, through education and tools to improve self-management.

It's integrated healthcare management mobile platform provides 24/7 access to virtual credentialed doctors, nurses and allied healthcare providers via SMS, voice and video platforms for people living with chronic diseases including, diabetes, respiratory system disease, HIV, asthma and cancer. With the app, people can reach experts from South Africa, Zambia, Rwanda, Kenya, US, UK and Nigeria.

The revolutinary platform is helping people live longer, happier and healthier lives in Sub-Saharan Africa and Nneka believes that developing the health landscape in Africa will help unlock the continent’s true potential.

Dr. Mobisson is a pediatrician with a Master’s degree in clinical and public health. She graduated from MIT in 1995 with a B.Sc. in Mechanical Engineering after which she earned her Master’s in Public Health in 1998 from Emory University. She also has an MBA from the Yale School of Management.

Between 2003 and 2004, Nneka consulted for the World Bank on investing in private health care in poor countries and developing a strategy on health care systems. While working as a consultant, she also worked as a Resident physician at the Children’s Hospital Philadelphia.

From 2011-2012,  she was Vice President of Community Health and Population Health Management at the Connecticut Hospital Association, where she built broad-based constituencies to address health disparities, provided leadership to hospitals in the area of population health management, and devised statewide health initiatives to better address community health and reduce costs.

From 2012-2016, Nneka was the Executive Director and Regional Lead Africa for the Institute for Healthcare Improvement; an independent not for profit organization based in Cambridge, Massachusetts until she left to launch mdoc. She was responsible for the operations and implementation of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement’s existing work in Africa, as well as for developing IHI’s portfolio in Africa as part of the organization’s work in low- and middle-income countries.

As a consultant for McKinsey & Company, she worked primarily in the area of strategy development for payers and providers, health care IT, and pharmaceutical companies.

She is a 2017 Cartier Awards Finalist, a 2014 World Economic Forum Young Global Leader, and a Yale Associate World Fellow.

Why TechHer Loves Her.

She turned a personal tragedy into a noble purpose and is saving people’s lives. Nneka leverages technology to ensure people who are unhealthy and living with chronic diseases can have easy, reliable and fast access to physicians and tools on self-management.

Damilola Solesi is the founder, CEO and creative director of SMIDS, Nigeria’s foremost animation studio.

She has a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science from Bowen University, Nigeria. She studied business and entrepreneurship at Clark Atlanta University, Atlanta and holds a certificate in entrepreneurial management from the Enterprise Development Centre of the Pan-Atlantic University.

Following her lifelong dream to create animations and cartoons, Damilola started SMIDS animation studios in 2010, a company that focuses on developing creative content for kids and family entertainment meant for audiences around the world. At SMIDS, she leads a team of artists and animators who create 3D computer animation, 3D content production, motion graphics and visual effects. The company has been ranked as one of the top two animation companies in Nigeria by the PWC (Price Water Coopers) industry report.

Damilola is the recipient of many awards and grants. She is a Goldman Sachs Scholar, a mentee on the IBM Women Enterprise Challenge, a recipient of the Empowering Women series award and one of the 1,200 exceptional women who won the federal government Youth enterprise with Innovation (YouWin) grants for young entrepreneurs in the second run of the program.

In 2015, she was accepted as one of the Mandela Washington fellow under the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI), the flagship program of President Barack Obama.

Damilola strongly supports and promotes women’s interest in technology. She is the co-founder of Women R.I.S.E, a platform where women are inspired to expand their interests in technology through collaboration, networking, training, mentorship, and funding to help them play a stronger role in growing the technology startup scene in Nigeria and Africa.

In 2017, her company released an animated comedy, sketch-based, short form, web series called BOXED in response to the lack of animated children’s content in Nigeria.

Why TechHer Loves Her:

Damilola is a great example of what is possible when one follows their dreams and passion. She stayed true to a dream she had as a child and not only did she create a profitble business out of it, she has made a name for herself!

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