Devfest 2023: Women digitalists explore tech, leadership opportunities

Participants pose for a group photo after a dinner during the Devfest 2023 celebrations in Kisii on November 4, 2023. PHOTO/Stanshot Arts.
  • This groundbreaking event catalyzed the promotion of women in tech.
  • The conference was jointly organized by the Women Google Developers and Women Techmakers Kisii.
  • It welcomed over 100 women and men from diverse backgrounds and disciplines within the tech industry.

On Saturday, November 4, 2023, the move towards gender equality in the tech sector made a significant milestone.

The “Devfest” conference brought together industry leaders, aspiring female technologists and students from Kisii University, Rongo University, Moi University, Kisii National Polytechnic, Kisii School, and Kereri Girls High School, among other institutions, and advocates for women in technology at the Kisii. 

This groundbreaking event catalyzed the promotion of women in tech, showcasing their achievements and fostering inclusivity in the ever-evolving world of technology.

Lina Mwakitawa, Chairperson of Women Techmakers, Faith Wanyangu, and Collins Jumah were on the hosting panel.

“Tech is a field that women need to be empowered toward and develop an interest in to move with the technological world. This conference is being held for the first time in Kisii, and it’s happening simultaneously with another in Nairobi.

The conference was jointly organized by the Women Google Developers and Women Techmakers Kisii.

The event organizers pose for a photo with Dr. Ronald Tombe (third right), one of the speakers. PHOTO/Stanshot Arts.

It featured an impressive lineup of speakers, break-out sessions, and networking opportunities designed to empower and inspire women in technology. 

The conference welcomed over 100 women and men from diverse backgrounds and disciplines within the tech industry.

Women in tech

The event opened with a keynote address by Teresa Abuya, Chair of the Department of Computing Sciences at Kisii University, who highlighted the importance of diversity in technology and the valuable contributions women bring to the sector. 

She emphasized that embracing diversity and gender equality is not only a moral imperative but also a key driver of innovation and economic growth.

Teresa Abuya, Lecturer Kisii University. PHOTO/Stanshot Arts.

She also highlighted soft skills that would help in self-growth in the tech field. 

“Problem solving, creativity, collaboration, self-motivation, critical thinking and having analytical minds as vital skills to grow and prosper in the tech field,” Ms. Abuya added.

Latifa Noor from Pwani Teknowgalz, who was also a keynote speaker, added on the topic by mobilizing women to be more focused on developing their tech knowledge.

“There are various ways that we could learn more on tech and develop our tech skills. We can attend boot camps, take internships, ask for advice and constant practice will make us better,” Ms. Noor advised.

Ms. Mwakitawa shared with the participants that the number of men in the tech industry is very high, and women would need to go the extra mile to equate the number of males.

Participants follow proceedings during the occasion. PHOTO/Stanshot Arts.

Artificial intelligence

Dr. Ronald Tombe, Founder of Deepkentom Limited and Lecturer at Kisii University, gave his keynote speech on AI for economic inclusivity.

He explored the need to harness the power of AI and integrate it with farming methods and technologies to optimize agricultural produce.

He added that AI can be used in monitoring crop growth irrigation management, among other aspects of agriculture, to optimize produce to reduce hunger issues in Africa.

Dr. Ronald Tombe, Founder of Deepkentom Limited and Lecturer at Kisii University, giving his remarks. PHOTO/Stanshot Arts.

Anesu Makwasha, CEO TOSE Limited, also took the audience through various ways to avoid common pitfalls in AI and machine learning.

“There are various ways we can reduce on the common pitfalls by identifying and reducing biases in machines, preventing data seepage in AI among other ways,” Mr. Makwasha advised.

Later on, in the ‘beyond the bug’ presentation by Felix Masigwa, he taught the audience how to avoid vulnerabilities in tech. 

He advised the audience to be vigilant about their data always.

“Cyber security is a very important aspect in tech, the backbone to safety of information. You need to know what can bring vulnerabilities to our systems and curb the bridging,” Mr. Masigwa said.

Game development

Shem Tom, a computer science student from Kisii University, took center stage to share his insights on game development. 

The 2D game developer taught the audience about various engines to use when developing 2D games and also various platforms to launch their games, and how to make money from games through advertisements and in-app purchases.

He has developed various games that you can find in the Google App Store. The games are ugali saucer, Dual Space, Sanse and Sauti.

“As much as games are for fun, we can develop these gaming apps and make money from them. The only challenge, however, is in Africa, there are few gaming studios,” he observed.

Participants pose for a group photo after the Devfest. PHOTO/Stanshot Arts.

Throughout the day, attendees had the opportunity to participate in various workshops and panel discussions covering topics such as entrepreneurship, artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, and the challenges women face in technology. 

These sessions provided valuable insights and strategies for women to advance their careers in tech and navigate the unique obstacles they may encounter.

One of the standout sessions featured a panel of successful female tech entrepreneurs: Latifah Noor and Ms. Abuya, who shared their personal journeys and the lessons they had learned along the way. 

Ms. Mwakitawa stressed the importance of mentorship and networking in helping women break into the male-dominated tech world.

Lina Mwakitawa (Left), Chairperson of Women Techmakers Kisii and Perris Bosibori, IT Lecturer Kisii National Polytechnic. PHOTO/Stanshot Arts.

Devfest also provided a platform for presenters to showcase their innovative projects and startups. 

The Women Techmakers Kisii featured cutting-edge technologies developed by female-led companies like Pwani Tecknogalz, giving the participants a chance to witness the incredible contributions women are making to the industry.

The conference concluded with a commitment to foster the advancement of women in technology, with many attendees expressing their enthusiasm for the event’s impact on their careers and personal development. 

Organizers emphasized the importance of continuing to support and empower women in the tech sector, citing the significant strides that have been made and the work that still needs to be done.

Commenting on the success of the event, Ms. Mwakitawa said, “Devfest has been an inspiring celebration of women’s achievements in technology. 

Ms. Mwakitawa giving her input during the event. PHOTO/Stanshot Arts.

We are determined to continue supporting and advocating for gender equality in the tech industry. Together, we will build a more inclusive and innovative future.”

The girls’ dinner

The Devfest left a lasting impression on its attendees and the broader tech community, serving as a beacon of hope and inspiration for women pursuing careers in technology. 

The conference’s success highlights the growing momentum in the industry towards gender diversity and inclusivity, reinforcing the notion that when women in tech succeed, the entire industry thrives.

After the Devfest, they attended and held an evening round table conversation to crown the event in a stylish all-black and gold dinner. 

Ms. Wanyangu, the co-host of the dinner with Ms. Mwakitawa, welcomed the ladies with joy and energy to crown the day.

Edinah Kangwana, Linet Moruri, Teresa Abuya and Peris Bosibori were discussants at the dinner. 

They advised the young ladies on the importance of being unique as a lady in leadership.

Ms. Abuya insisted on the need for women to pursue their goals without depending on men. 

From left: Faith Wanyangu, Teresa Abuya, Linet Moruri and Perris Bosibori during the panel discussion. PHOTO/Stanshot Arts.

She encouraged them to work towards becoming leaders. 

She shared her experience on how she grew toward her current role as chair of the department at Kisii University.

“You must show that you are a leader for you to be acknowledged as one; that is what I did and has rewarded me always,” Ms. Abuya encouraged.

Ms. Moruri added to that by encouraging the ladies to stand by the truth always and transparency, which are demands of leadership.

“Be firm with your decisions as long as they are right, even if you are alone. Leadership means standing with right values and principles even if people don’t like it,” Ms. Moruri added.

Ms. Kangwana, joining the team virtually, handled the topic of Women in Leadership Challenges. She gave insights on some of the main challenges women face while leveling up to become impactful leaders.

Ms. Kangwana delivering her presentation virtually. PHOTO/Edinah Kangwana.

“Forging a life balance in many roles women play, like being mothers, wives, sisters, daughters, community members, professionals, and leaders, is a tough situation to pull through,” she said.

One of the pathways to growing beyond the challenges, according to Ms. Kangwana, is learning and embracing the art of delegating.

She encouraged women leaders to empower those around them at the workplace or anywhere else, and then delegate to them what they can handle, freeing some of their quality time.

Ms. Bosibori, an IT lecturer at Kisii National Polytechnic, also encouraged women to keep pushing always and never rest until they have achieved their dreams.

Ms. Bosibori sharing her insights. PHOTO/Stanshot Arts.

“As women the society demands double standards from us; that’s why we have to make sure all is well with us and stay focused on our goals. We must compete for every opportunity without fear of failure,” Ms. Bosibori added.

YOU CAN ALSO READ: Dare to be, Kisii University Women Techmakers resolve

Yes! They can do it. Women are gearing up in all aspects to compete for every spot and equate the number of males in the different industries.

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