Damilola Anwo-Ade is the Managing Partner of Sprout Digital Development and founder of CodeIT. In this interview, she discusses the role women can play in advancing their business using technology.
What do you do at Sprout Digital?
Sprout is a digital development agency and ICT project managers that develop tech solutions for businesses and organizations.
Additionally, CodeIT is a programme that targets children from age five to 18 in the development of coding skills. It targets the near-future society within Nigeria where the use of code is treated the same way we use the languages we currently read and write in.
What are the major focus areas of Sprout?
Sprout as a digital company is wholly committed to sustainable development through design, creation and implementation of creative technology solutions and the major target is to bring more women into business technologically.
We are focused on finding technological solutions which will essentially enable us to achieve as many of the Sustainable Development Goals as possible. At present, our main focus areas are on quality education, gender equality and reduced inequalities in general, decent work and economic growth, innovation and the strengthening of institutions.
What is interesting is that in our present context, empowerment through technology has the capacity to address many of these areas simultaneously.
How do you think women can use technology in empowering their wellbeing?
All that Nigerian women need currently is empowerment. Thus, simplifying access to knowledge will go a long way in women empowerment.
Currently, women are 21% less likely to access mobile technology. The potential for empowerment through technology is amazingly vast. Sprout discovered that women especially are able to create mutually appreciative relationship using technological solutions and can enhance their individual abilities using technology,
Also, the rise of the female population in the sector also guarantees newer, different perspectives to socio-economic applications.
In terms of communication, women accessing technology are able to be more aware of themselves, their surroundings and the resources at their disposal. A simple google search can bring in solutions to frequently asked questions in almost any setting. With technology at their disposal, women in remote areas can eliminate the disadvantage of ignorance.
Having more women online, and communicating through technology, also bridges the divide between development workers and their targets. Women that are covered in various programmes around the world would be able to address their issues in real time. This alone solves a lot of issues for those trying to creatively design, implement and restructure various initiatives to reach them. This covers their health, their access to resources and the injustices that they face on a daily basis.
The health sector is a prime example of this. Maternal mortality is around 1 in 200 in sub-Saharan Africa. If we are able to enhance the use of mobile technology among this demography, you will have more people accessing life saving information that is readily available online through handheld platforms.
What business can women venture into online, and is there any sensitization?
Sprout actually creates tech solutions, web-based and mobile applications, customized. We teach women and people in general to create and use them. We find that creation is just 40% of the job. We find that teaching them to use on a daily basis, to recognize where it can be used, creatively and otherwise is vital. We need to adapt to tools and our way of thinking around the problems through tech.
The deeper we go into rural Nigeria, the more we recognise the need for more training. My work last year with Intel in sensitising women particularly on IT, though successful, brought to perspective the real need for more resources to put into ICT trainings for women.
Apparently, we need more collaboration between technological companies and development organizations to see to this need.
Your campaign is that all businesses should be online. How do you intend to get the message across, especially to women?
‘All Businesses Should Be Online’ is a campaign we began this year to get many Nigerian businesses visible to the world. Mainly because we know that internet as we use it today is already optimized for businesses and therefore it represents the ability to reach markets, create an image online that is available to everyone, at all times and at the click of a link.
Naturally, there seems to be a lot of focus on male-dominated industries, but changing the narratives in social media by identifying and continuously supporting women breeds further success and encourages individuals in the global community. We also recognize that there are quite a number of women businesses out there with brands that could be far more visible.
Sprout works actively to address their branding needs by partnering them with well established organisations that believe and support them. Access Bank’s women entrepreneur Programme earlier this year is a great example, where we gave away free and discounted websites.
Where do you see women interested in doing business online in the next 5 years?
It’s very important that I end by saying this quote by Hilary Clinton, “Women are the largest untapped reservoir of talent in the world”. Supporting them and their businesses is the smartest thing any company or organization can do so that in the next five years, women can create a revolution in business, especially with the aid of the ease of doing business policy.