Missing Ada Lovelace Day: W-TEC Nigeria, Ore Somolu
Ada Lovelace Day was organised to bring recognition to the many women who have contributed to technology. So who was Ada Lovelace? Apart from being the daughter of one of my favorite poets, Lord Byron, more importantly Ada wrote the world’s first computer programme for the Analytical Engine. The event was organised by Suw Charman-Anderson with a call for bloggers to make the following pledge….
“I will publish a blog post on Tuesday 24th March about a woman in technology whom I admire but only if 1,000 other people will do the same.”
I took the pledge in my head but then I completely forgot. It’s not too late so I am going to write a brief few words about a Nigerian blogger and woman in technology who I admire and I believe deserves far more recognition than she has so far received – Ore Somolu.
Ore Somolu started her blog Ore’s Notes in July 2005. At the time the number of African women blogging was quite small so it was very natural that we would come into contact with each other through our respective blogs. In 2006 Ore came up with the idea of running a workshop on technology for woman in Lagos. We discussed the idea together and came up with a pilot project Blogs for African Women (BAWo) which was supported by Fahamu. Although I was involved with some of the planning, it was Ore who led the project which instructed a group of young girls on blogging using volunteer mentors from across the blogosphere. The project ran into many difficulties such as access to computers and the usual unreliable electricity supply and Internet issues common to Nigeria. However it was an excellent learning process and if we measure success by future outcomes then the project definitely achieved this.
Nonetheless it was hard work and the many obstacles could have led Ore to give up at this point. But instead she persevered applied for a small amount of funding from the Harambee Project to continue with the workshops. By 2008 through sheer hard work and determination, Ore had developed the idea of using technology as a way of empowering Nigerian women and girls socially and economically into something bigger and more sustainable. The result is the Women’s Technology Empowerment Center [W-TEC] which is based in Lagos.
In her own post on Ada Lovelace, Ore writes about the influences in her life choices and why she chose to focus on women and technology…..
“However, now because of women like Dr. Nancy Hafkin, I feel like I made a series of alright choices after all. While her work is about technology, it is centered on the people who use the technology: how they use it, how they can use it more efficiently and also on the people who are not using the technology: why not, what technology has to offer them and how user challenges can be addressed. This has been a good guide for me and I know because she was helped pioneer a new field, I’ll be better than okay doing something unconventional, as long as it is something I feel called to do”.