Expert Eye: IBM’s Babacar Kane discusses gender equality in the digital age

Digital technology offers the chance to advance equality of opportunity across Africa, with multinationals like IBM offering free education to would-be tech entrepreneurs

The fourth industrial revolution, or the digital age, has seen an unprecedented acceleration of innovation and technology advancements. More importantly, it offers the potential of true equality no matter what gender, physical ability, creed or race.

I say potentially as, for equality, there are still some very key dependencies. One – everyone will need to have affordable access to high speed internet. Two – everyone will need to have access to quality digital education.

This digital age offers the young population of Africa a new exciting future, and whilst governments, telcos and donor organisations are embarking on delivering the affordable access, IBM has developed and launched an exciting platform offering education, empowering innovation and enabling success.

As stated before, the digital age is truly impartial and allows the whole population to gain skills, tackle challenges, deliver services and start new enterprises. Historically the workplace was restrictive and suffered from both overt and subconscious prejudice, especially for the women of Africa.

Today we are seeing a truly global services industry and young entrepreneurs launching new enterprises covering virtually all industries. This is the opportunity, especially for the youth and businesses of Africa. As we have witnessed in the music industry, the digital revolution is changing how people engage, and the most successful are embracing this change. Success is no longer controlled by the few but available to all.

To help ensure that the African youth, and through them African businesses catch this express train, IBM has launched its free to use Digital – Nation Africa platform, powered by IBM Cloud and engaging its AI engine Watson. Across Africa IBM is working with many different entities to help ensure that as many people as possible have easy access to the platform and the benefits it can bring.

In Senegal the Virtual University embraced the platform, in Tunisia the platform is being used to support the countrywide drive for innovation, while the first African school to adopt the platform is in Morocco. In total there are more than 250 different collaborations across Africa.

Across all of these collaborations the approach is to empower the individual to make positive change, whether solving a community challenge, gaining the skills needed to get a job or unleashing innovation to start a new enterprise. The digital age has the real potential to allow all Africans to succeed.

The IBM Digital – Nation Africa is a free self-paced learning and innovation platform, empowering African youth with digital skills and tools, to help improve their day to day life and allowing them access to a wider range of opportunities.

The platform is designed for African citizens, students, entrepreneurs, and communities, providing both knowledge and tools to innovate, design, develop and launch their own digital solutions, leveraging the power of AI.

As a cloud-based structured learning, enablement and achievement recognition platform, users will learn about the emerging technologies such as cloud, artificial intelligence, internet of things, blockchain, data science and analytics, and security. Moreover, the user will have free access to IBM Cloud and AI platform where they can build their solutions online.

For example, the Explorer Journey provides users with a series of short videos that are quick to learn, introducing the key emerging technologies and including examples of how the technology is being used. For those who wish to discover more, there are additional resources both within IBM Digital – Nation Africa and other IBM web sites.

The Innovator Journey allows users to create their own digital solution. It starts with inspiring them by showcasing many examples of innovative digital solutions, followed by providing an introduction to the design thinking methodology, and more importantly providing access to the IBM Cloud Lite account where the users can build their own solution.

The New Collar Journey is designed to offer users the ability to gain key digital skills which are in high demand in the workplace such as web application development, cloud, AI and blockchain development. Unique to the platform is the use of IBM Watson, that helps create the users’ skill profile, and connects them to a broad range of online recruitment sites in Africa. This provides users with a list of currently available jobs in one place and filters them relevant to their skills. The courses consist of multimedia content and many include hands-on labs, enabling users to experience the technology.

Whether they are new to the digital world, or a startup entrepreneur, student, recent graduate or a professional, IBM Digital – Nation Africa has something for everyone.

I write this in anticipation of being part of the Digital Woman’s Day (JFD, for Journée de la Femme Digitale), on the theme of ‘Women: World Changers’ which will takes place in June in Dakar, Senegal. A first on the African continent for this event founded in 2013 by Delphine REMY-BOUTANG, it places the spotlight on and helps network the women working to revolutionise the world through digital technology every year.

Written by: Babacar Kane, General Manager, IBM Senegal & West African States Hub