Tag: Africa

Breaking the code: how women in Nigeria are changing the face of tech

Female developers are emerging as influential forces in the countrys booming technology sector but the stigma persists that computing is a male industry

The Nigerian tech scene is booming. Last year, Lagos-based startup Andela received $24m (18.5m) in funding from Mark Zuckerberg. In 2015, financial technology startup Paystack one of the first Nigerian tech companies to be accepted into renowned California-based startup accelerator Y Combinator secured approximately $1.3m in seed investment from international investors.

Within this growth, women are emerging as influential forces, and changing the face of technology in Africa, especially in the fields of agricultural and financial tech. This is despite the fact that, as recently as a decade ago, women were grossly underrepresented in and excluded from the industries they are now helping to shape.

I think those who are joining the tech world today have an easier path to tread, says Nnenna Nwakanma, a Nigerian activist for accessible internet. There were situations where people would refuse to recognise my authority, but would patronise or objectify me, or refuse to fulfil contracts they had willingly entered into all because of my gender. Despite this, Nwakanma co-founded the Free Software and Open Source Foundation for Africa (FOSSFA) and is now a senior policy manager for the World Wide Web Foundation, where she supports digital equality and promotes the rights of Nigerian women online.

The negative attitude towards womens involvement in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (Stem) is starting to change, thanks partly to initiatives such as the Stem outreach and mentoring programmes established by the Working to Advance Science and Technology Education for African Women (WAAW) Foundation, which operates in 11 countries. There is also Intels programme She Will Connect Africa, which has trained more than 150,000 women in Nigeria, South Africa and Kenya in digital literacy since it launched in 2013.

The demand for tech talent is now such that it cannot be met by men alone. Rapid digitalisation in Nigeria is heavily concentrated in the countrys metropolitan megacity, Lagos. Here, the startup culture flourishes, while big business have moved in: in 2015, global tech supplier Bosch opened a subsidiary in Ikeja, the capital of Lagos region, and Microsoft has an office in the affluent Lagos neighbourhood of Ikoyi.

Ire Aderinokun the author of web development blog bitsofco.de, a front-end developer and Nigerias first female Google Developer Expert says her love of tech started as a hobby. I used to play an online game called Neopets, which had some HTML capabilities. From there, I got really interested and continued to learn more. But, despite Aderinokuns enthusiasm, her interest was not always encouraged. Its definitely not what society expected of me. I studied psychology for my undergraduate and law for my masters. When I said I wanted to pursue this, there were many people who told me not to.

Rukayat Sadiq, a software engineer and a technical team leader at Andela, also faced opposition. She chose to study electrical engineering a subject in which a class of 150 students might include only 15 women to the surprise of friends and family, who had expected her to become a doctor.

While women entering and participating equally in the labour market is commonplace in Nigeria, computing and engineering are still industries dominated heavily by men. But many women who work in the tech industry are keen to offer support to those coming up. Aderinokun, for example, is funding full scholarships to five women for online programming nanodegrees. These qualifications do not guarantee employment, but they give those who have earned them a distinct advantage in the workplace and are endorsed by top employers, including Google, AT&T and Amazon. Sadiq also spends time teaching and mentoring newbies.

Removing the stigma and assumption that tech is only supposed to be for men is necessary, and I think we need to start from as early in childrens lives as possible, says Aderinokun. We should work towards eliminating negative statements and mindsets that perpetuate the myth that women cant be involved in Stem.

It is hopeful that we will one day get to a point where tech-related fields are level playing grounds for both sexes.

It is a challenge that continues around the globe, but it is one Nigeria is well equipped to handle.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2017/aug/14/breaking-the-code-how-women-in-nigeria-are-changing-the-face-of-tech

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Using maths to outsmart mosquitoes – BBC News

Image copyright SPL

Researchers at Strathclyde university are working to combat a deadly tropical disease – using mathematics.

Dengue fever is caused by a virus carried by Aedes mosquitoes.

The number of cases has grown dramatically in recent years with close to 60 million people catching it every year.

Although it is fatal in only a small proportion of cases, it means deaths are still in the tens of thousands.

Image caption Millions of people catch dengue fever every year

The World Health Organisation says 500,000 people a year need hospital treatment for dengue in Africa, the Americas, the eastern Mediterranean, southeast Asia and the western Pacific.

The currently favoured approach is to search and destroy the mosquitoes using methods such as spraying fogs of insecticides.

But the authorities in Malaysia wanted something more environmentally friendly which did not increase the mosquitoes’ resistance and kill their predators.

Which is why the Strathclyde University team, led by mathematician Dr David Greenhalgh, has been working with its Malaysian partners to assess the effectiveness of a new type of mosquito trap.

The exact design is still under wraps but I can reveal that it looks a bit like a yogurt pot.

That belies its huge potential in a new approach to fighting tropical diseases: don’t use search and destroy – outsmart the insects.

“The trap contains a chemical solution that attracts female mosquitoes into it,” Dr Greenhalgh says.

“There’s a piece of paper leading into the chemical solution.

“The female mosquitoes that are attracted to the trap lay their eggs on the piece of paper and the chemical stops the eggs developing.”

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Dengue fever is spread by the Aedes aegypti mosquito

Mathematics comes into the process because Dr Greenhalgh and colleagues have built a computer model of how the disease spreads.

From that they can simulate how the trap affects the spread of the virus among people and mosquitoes.

He says people go through different stages of the disease.

“There are four different types of dengue, four different serotypes,” he says.

“Usually the infection with the first serotype is quite mild.

“But if you get a second infection with a different strain it can have very serious effects.”

Dr Greenhalgh adds: “As well as modelling how the people go through those different stages, the mosquitoes also go through different stages.

“So you’re trying to model how these populations interact, with mosquitoes biting people, with the disease spreading from people to mosquitoes and vice versa.”

The variables in the mathematical model include the number of traps, the area’s history of dengue infections, plus the numbers of mosquitoes and breeding sites.

Global scale

So far the indications are that both the simulation and the real life traps are working well.

In a small-scale test in three blocks of flats in Kuala Lumpur the number of dengue cases was reduced from 53 in 2013 to 13 the following year.

In 2015, after the trial was over, the number of infections rose again to 57.

Dr Greenhalgh warns that these are small numbers but also promising ones.

Further research is now examining the effectiveness of the trap in different conditions.

The collaboration is between Strathclyde, Malaysia’s Institute for Medical Research and the Kuala Lumpur-based business One Team Network Solutions, which designs low-tech pest control devices.

The UK delivery partner is the British Council Malaysia. The project is being funded by the UK government’s Newton Fund and the Malaysian government’s High Impact Programme 2.

If the trap and its mathematical model work on a large scale it will have implications for health on a global scale.

Read more: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-39353752

Technorati Tags: , , ,

Using maths to outsmart mosquitoes – BBC News

Image copyright SPL

Researchers at Strathclyde university are working to combat a deadly tropical disease – using mathematics.

Dengue fever is caused by a virus carried by Aedes mosquitoes.

The number of cases has grown dramatically in recent years with close to 60 million people catching it every year.

Although it is fatal in only a small proportion of cases, it means deaths are still in the tens of thousands.

Image caption Millions of people catch dengue fever every year

The World Health Organisation says 500,000 people a year need hospital treatment for dengue in Africa, the Americas, the eastern Mediterranean, southeast Asia and the western Pacific.

The currently favoured approach is to search and destroy the mosquitoes using methods such as spraying fogs of insecticides.

But the authorities in Malaysia wanted something more environmentally friendly which did not increase the mosquitoes’ resistance and kill their predators.

Which is why the Strathclyde University team, led by mathematician Dr David Greenhalgh, has been working with its Malaysian partners to assess the effectiveness of a new type of mosquito trap.

The exact design is still under wraps but I can reveal that it looks a bit like a yogurt pot.

That belies its huge potential in a new approach to fighting tropical diseases: don’t use search and destroy – outsmart the insects.

“The trap contains a chemical solution that attracts female mosquitoes into it,” Dr Greenhalgh says.

“There’s a piece of paper leading into the chemical solution.

“The female mosquitoes that are attracted to the trap lay their eggs on the piece of paper and the chemical stops the eggs developing.”

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Dengue fever is spread by the Aedes aegypti mosquito

Mathematics comes into the process because Dr Greenhalgh and colleagues have built a computer model of how the disease spreads.

From that they can simulate how the trap affects the spread of the virus among people and mosquitoes.

He says people go through different stages of the disease.

“There are four different types of dengue, four different serotypes,” he says.

“Usually the infection with the first serotype is quite mild.

“But if you get a second infection with a different strain it can have very serious effects.”

Dr Greenhalgh adds: “As well as modelling how the people go through those different stages, the mosquitoes also go through different stages.

“So you’re trying to model how these populations interact, with mosquitoes biting people, with the disease spreading from people to mosquitoes and vice versa.”

The variables in the mathematical model include the number of traps, the area’s history of dengue infections, plus the numbers of mosquitoes and breeding sites.

Global scale

So far the indications are that both the simulation and the real life traps are working well.

In a small-scale test in three blocks of flats in Kuala Lumpur the number of dengue cases was reduced from 53 in 2013 to 13 the following year.

In 2015, after the trial was over, the number of infections rose again to 57.

Dr Greenhalgh warns that these are small numbers but also promising ones.

Further research is now examining the effectiveness of the trap in different conditions.

The collaboration is between Strathclyde, Malaysia’s Institute for Medical Research and the Kuala Lumpur-based business One Team Network Solutions, which designs low-tech pest control devices.

The UK delivery partner is the British Council Malaysia. The project is being funded by the UK government’s Newton Fund and the Malaysian government’s High Impact Programme 2.

If the trap and its mathematical model work on a large scale it will have implications for health on a global scale.

Read more: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-39353752

Technorati Tags: , , ,