For the past seven years, "Digital Women's Day" (JFD, for Journée de la Femme Digitale) has always been held in Paris. This year, the organisers staged the first-ever event on African soil in Dakar, Senegal. The event which was founded in 2013 by Delphine Remy Boutang provides a platform for women working to change their communities and countries through digital technology to showcase their work and create networks.
As the host of the first African edition of the event, Senegal did not disappoint. With more than 650 people and 26 corporations in attendance, the innovators displayed novel tech creations that were majorly inspired by the problems they face as women. Africa's great vision to strengthen and develop ICT as well as create a sustainable digital economy was evident in some of the ideas showcased such as barcode health cards, mobile apps for victims of violence and an online legal platform.
With ambitions as a budding start-up hub and plans to create 35,000 direct jobs in new technologies by 2025, it is not difficult to see why the Senegalese female techpreneurs stole the show at the inaugural event. Three innovators who stood out were Nafissatou Diouf, Nafissatou Tine, and Diariata N'diaye.
At only 22 years of age, Diouf is the founder of Senvitale which is a start-up tech firm that creates QR codes for wristbands, pendants, and cards enabling doctors or first responders to instantly access patients' health data. Diouf's digital enterprise was inspired by the sudden death of her aunt after a failed treatment of an allergic reaction. Trading in her industrial chemistry and food technology degree for a tech start-up, Diouf launched Senvitale in 2017 with only 10 employees.
Notwithstanding that the project is yet to be authorised by the Ministry of Health because of the sensitive data that the company handles, last year, she won best Senegal start-up prize for the firm's free platform which has enabled patients to also manage their medical appointments.
The concept was to "help doctors and emergency workers... to act quickly. Hopefully, I will expand it beyond Senegal," said Diouf.
This 34-year-old Senegalese-French lawyer has always been a trendsetter since her law school days. From being involved in the activities of the Women Association Lingeer, which she co-founded and which promotes African women through arts and culture to launching Les Dimanches Littéraires Dakarois in 2015, a project aimed at increasing a taste for reading by sharing texts and providing monthly meetings with writers, she does not seem to be slowing down.
After leaving Brussels to settle down in Dakar, Tine struggled to find reliable sources of information on Senegalese law. So, in 2014, she created Sunulex.sn, a digital platform designed to act as a reference guide for Senegalese law practitioners and service providers. Since then, Sunulex has become some sort of melting point for all of Senegal's national and Ohada legislation, case law, doctrine, and jurisprudence. According to Tine, Sunulex has placed 800 legal materials out of the total of 60,000 on a publicly accessible free platform which receives 1,700 hits a week. She believes that Sunulex is a great asset for law students, lawyers, and even ordinary citizens and as such hopes to keep expanding the platform.
Her company, which already has eight employees, hopes to launch a version next month that will pitch to 10 countries in French-speaking Africa.
It's an African platform made with African resources, by Africans, for Africans, and for lawyers around the world," she said.
As a 36-year-old Senegalese artist who grew up in France, N'diaye's has always been keen on fighting domestic violence and abuse of women and girls. She has done this not only through her artwork but also by travelling to schools in France to educate young people. Through her 'artivism' and advocacy work, she became aware that many victims of domestic violence and abuse did not realise there was help out there.
It was this realisation that motivated her to develop a mobile application App Elles that allows victims to alert three contacts in case of danger. It records and transmits the sound of the incident to the recipient and sends the GPS location. App Elles is a play of words in French that translates to "She-Calls". She launched the mobile application in 2015 and for the last three years, it has proven to be of great assistance to many women.
According to N'diaye, over 8,000 downloads of her application have been made and App Elles has a presence in 10 countries, including France, Morocco, Canada, the United States as well as Senegal.
I began with a very basic observation: everyone has a phone and so if there is going to be a tool for victims, it should go through their phone....We have a lot of people using App-Elles when they go out. Women who start early in the morning, who come back late at night." said N'diaye.
An optional wristband, costing 30 euros ($33), can be used to issue the alerts via a Bluetooth link to the mobile, so the victim does not have to draw attention to herself by switching on her phone. The free platform also allows abused women to contact associations or learn about their rights.
Photo Credits: Innova8tiv, Innovation hub, YerimPost, info-digitale, Afriquemidi, Abidjan tv