Interview with Oumie Saine, Final Year Information Systems Student at the UTG, Upon Her Return from the Africa Summit on Women and Girls in Technology

[By Mamudou Jallow]

BRIDGING GAPS: Hello and welcome to the Bridging Gaps Advisory interview with me Mamudou Jallow, first can you just briefly tell us something about yourself?

OUMIE SAINE: Thank you Mr. Jallow for honoring me with this interview. My name is Oumie Saine and I am a proud Gambian. I am a final year student pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in Information Systems at the University of the Gambia. I am a technology enthusiast with a great passion to develop my technical skills.

I am currently engaged with women-tech organizations whose resolve is to empower more women so that they can seek careers in the technology field.

I believe that as a young lady, I have a crucial role to develop my society and see through the advancement of women and girls in the Gambia.

BRIDGING GAPS:  Very good.  Now what can you tell us about the Africa Summit on Women and Girls in Technology that you just attended in Ghana?

OUMIE SAINE: The Africa Summit on Women and Girls in Technology is a platform that brings together practitioners and policymakers from across the continent. This year’s summit availed participants the opportunity to discuss timely topics, share ideas, and build on a range of skills- from technology to policy and peer to peer networking. All this was geared towards the promotion of digital gender equality across the continent.

BRIDGING GAPS: Who financed the summit?

OUMIE SAINE: The World Wide Web Foundation and the Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI), in partnership with the Ghana Ministry of Communications, OSIWA, the African Development Bank,  UN Women and the Internet Society funded this 2nd Africa Summit on Women and Girls in Technology, which was held October 9–11, 2018 in Accra, Ghana.

BRIDGING GAPS: How many attended this year’s forum?

OUMIE SAINE: 250 women from across the African continent attended the summit.

BRIDGING GAPS: Who paid for your trip and how many other Gambians were there with you?

OUMIE SAINE: I was sponsored by the World Wide Web Foundation to attend the summit. While there, I met-up with a Gambian by the name Jama Jack, a communication officer at UNICEF. We were the only Gambians at the event.

BRIDGING GAPS: Did you speak at any point during the event?

OUMIE SAINE: Yes, I gave a talk on the Internet and Sustainable Development Goals 5, 7 & 9 focusing on building a resilient environment for more inclusivity and mainstreaming gender through participation and awareness as key factors for bridging the gaps. I also talked on the need for an infrastructure that will allow for equal participation through innovation and partnership among the African countries.

BRIDGING GAPS:  Interesting indeed! Thank you for representing the Gambia in such a way. I will admit that your assessment on how to further bridge the digital divide between men and women couldn’t be more accurate. What were the key highlights of the summit?

OUMIE SAINE: For me, some of the key highlights were the efforts that are now being taken to provide institutional support for women in tech especially in the areas of policy, advocacy, and entrepreneurship as well as efforts to advance women participation in the Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics and Design (STEAMD) fields.

BRIDGING GAPS: As a young woman, why are you pursuing a career in technology as opposed to, let’s say, law or international relations.

OUMIE SAINE: Well I believe in “creativity” as the key to unlocking the potentials of the mind. My passion to pursue a career in tech is in line with my mission and that is to use technology in advancing the socio-economic development of this country.

BRIDGING GAPS: Fantastic! Your dad is a retired civil servant and a very respectable figure especially within the Kanifing Municipality. In the run up to this interview, I was told that you are also a much focused individual with great determination. How much do you take from your father?

OUMIE SAINE: Yes you’re right. I would describe him as a mentor. I have learnt a lot from him but more especially on two things; he is pragmatic – well I mean he is just down-to-earth and secondly, he is so tolerant. He always likes to remind us of the saying “ALL IN GOOD TIME”. So yes, I do take a lot from my father.

BRIDGING GAPS: Looking at technology and the other STEM fields, what do you think ought to be done to motivate women and girls to get into these areas?

OUMIE SAINE: That’s an interesting question. It begins with mainstreaming gender response policies that would create the enabling environment for more women and young girls. This can be achieved through increasing the level of awareness on how women and girls can participate.

There is also the need to review our current school curricula to include programming courses like coding and digital skills as a way to empower girls and young women at the grassroots level.

BRIDGING GAPS: How effective is the Africa Summit on Women and Girls in Technology in promoting technology to its target beneficiaries?

OUMIE SAINE: The summit takes up the issues that are currently hampering the participation of women and young girls in technology. The idea is to help women and girls surmount those challenges within their communities so that they can claim their rightful places in the world of technology.

BRIDGING GAPS: What’s your advice to our young people, especially the women and girls, who spend lots of time on their mobile devices?

OUMIE SAINE: Well, I would like to enlighten them on what we call ‘Screen-time Management’. It is important to consider how much time you spend on the phone and try to relate it to how much value it has for you. The decision is not just the connectivity and chats, but how can you use the phone to add significant value. For example, using the phone to do digital marketing is a source of economic gain and is also self-empowering as well.

BRIDGING GAPS: What are your parting words for a girl out there who thinks technology and the STEM fields in general are for boys and men only?

OUMIE SAINE: Well, It’s not about who can do it, think of how you can use it to ease your work. I quote “We don’t need tech solutions for women; we need tech solutions designed by women” By Carla Licciardello, policy Analyst at the International Telecommunications Union

BRIDGING GAPS: Thank you Ms. Oumie Saine for your time, and wish you best of luck in your studies and future endeavors

OUMIE SAINE: Thank you so much Mr. Jallow for this opportunity. It’s a pleasure.