Pioneras Developers: Programming our Community

Medellín is a city in Colombia, the so-called city of Everlasting Spring is erected in a valley, one of the reasons why people have had a interest in appointing it as the “Latinamerican Silicon Valley”. Other reasons enlist a political and social interest in boosting both Tech and TCI (Technologies of Communication and Information); as a result, this city watches new startups be born and raised; most of them are companies that develop products and brands but also those that work as a software maquiladora (a factory run by a foreign company and exporting its products to that company’s country of origin).

Within a sector named Distrito de la Innovación (Innovation District) that hosts some technology companies, a local center of innovation and businesses is born: RutaN as the iniciative of the City’s Mayor Office, the local public services company (EPM) and the local internet and telecommunications provider company (TIGO — UNE) that seeks to lead the “economical revolution of the city towards intensive activities in science, technology and innovation, in a sustainable and inclusive way”.

Public policies are important for the implementation of law, the allocation of resources and the visualization of issues and solutions. Nonetheless, by sitting in the political panorama, these problematics can not stay in the government agenda but they need to be appropriated by the citizens, and it is through the their active participation, those policies are molded and adapted to punctual needs, in a beginning, RutaN rose as a commercial platform (thought for boosting new companies), but it soon realized that the citizens needed training in innovation, entrepreneurship and STEM.

It is natural, that for some years, new communities have emerged; many of them, around collective learning, some groups such as COLOMBIADEV, a colombian network of software developers; MEDELLIN JS, a group of people from Medellin that develop in Javascript; count a good number of engineers who meet constantly to learn by collaboration, at least twice a month. Only in Medellin there are 71 associations around different programming languages, and software development.

Digital citizenship is not a new word in Medellin, the political interest mentioned before has found empathy in the city’s inhabitants and that has echoed with certain harmony. Nevertheless, since 2015 a missing element started to be evident, and as everything that is missing, it was invisible until someone put a finger on it and mentioned it: Why is it that out of 100 people attending these events, only 5 are women? Why is it that each time this number is smaller, instead of growing? Where are the women who program in Medellín?

According to some numbers run by the Bill and Melinda Gates’ Foundation, 50% of women abandon their careers in STEM before 12 years, in comparison to 20% in other areas.

In context: From 47,6 millions of Colombians only 9% have post-secondary studies. Scholar desertion is 3,8% and labour informality makes it difficult to reduce poverty. Global employment rates in Colombia is of 76% but 70% of the workforce is within informality (OECD, 2015). It is also necessary to remember that, in Colombia, women face an unemployment rate of 13%, which is superior to that of men’s, and they have 31% more chances of being excluded from the educative, laboral and formative agendas than their peers in other countries.

Social innovation must attend to the social problems, with solutions tailored to their requirements, and the planning and management of these must be given by social agents that know the reality and specificity of each need. Social innovation must always be conceived as a community work, that comes from inside to the outside but that is multidirectional in the communication and implementation.

That is the reason why, taking into account those needs of Colombian women and put into the local context, in 2015 we started PIONERAS DEVELOPERS, a self-administered community for learning and actualizing knowledge in technologies for the programming of computers, software and web development. In short, PIONERAS DEV seeks women empowerment through learning different programming languages. In these two years, besides meeting each 15 days around education, Pioneras Dev has managed to train more than 30 girls who were part of a group called NiNi (not-students, not-workers) of which, 5 have gotten jobs in the startups located in RutaN, and the rest have joined universities and pursue careers in Engineering, one of them is currently in the United States with a scholarship with the Recurse Center in New York. We have also managed to train young engineers that have got jobs with international companies based in Medellín such as Yuxi and Globant (both in web and software development). In 2017, there are more of 250 women that make part of PIONERAS DEVELOPERS in Medellin, out of which 88% know how to program, 87% know one or more programming languages. 62% are students and 66% have already received a higher education diploma.

Besides education support, Pioneras Developers, in an intuitive way has founded itself in the interpersonal relations of the members of the community, and this support is evident not only in the presencial meetings but also in the messages they send via WhatsApp and Slack, the quality of this connection(Gómez Mont, 2016, p.4) makes them feel that everyone has time for everyone (reciprocity, time, emotional intensity) as well as the interest and common value.

Field, as mentioned by Gómez Mont, assures that by sharing the same values, this community can constitute itself as a resource capable of developing capital; moreover the generation of networks and teamwork, as well as a solid support base and help which has rose in Pioneras Dev in an organic way, and in the words of Clemencia Rodríguez (a social investigator) “it works with empowering cultural relations, helping the community to build identity and social knowledge”. Furthermore, Toboso Martín (2014) affirms that the “techological appropriation implies a relation that produces collective identity, through which a person can figure as a member of the community by using the same practices and technologies as the rest of the people who share the same discourse towards it”. That is the reason why, in Pioneras Developers we think of growing the community, the support of the participants, the appropriation of the technologies, and the knowledges; and the empowering of them as women capable of creating, of digital and global citizens, because we program and develop our own future.

References (in Spanish)

  1. Barranquero y Luis Torres (ed,) (1 2015) Imágenes contemporáneas de la comunicación ciudadana y comunitaria en América Latina. Un encuentro entre Clemencia Rodríguez y Cecilia M. Krohling Peruzzo, Revista Internacional de Comunicación y Desarrollo, Vol 1, núm. 1,Universidad Santiago de Compostela, recuperado de: www.usc.es/revistas/index.php/ricd/article/download/2349/2469
  2. Cristóbal Cobo. “La innovación pendiente”, recuperado de: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4VGVeYzMd2I&list=PLyae-uOqa71t8CpdJQjWwa81Fkv7Byz8r&index=6
  3. De Certeau, Michel (1990), La invención de lo cotidiano, Introducción General, recuperado de: http://es.scribd.com/doc/162997547/De-Certau-La-invencion-de-lo-cotidiano
  4. Educared.org (2011). Entrevista a Henry Jenkins, video, recuperado de: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p_Q9d_brMOk&index=8&list=PLyae-uOqa71t8CpdJQjWwa81Fkv7Byz8r
  5. Gómez Mont, Carmen. (2009). La sociología de los usos: una perspectiva en construcción desde la escuela de pensamiento francófona y anglófona. en: Rodolfo Suárez (ed). Sociedad del conocimiento. Propuestas para una agenda conceptual. México, D.F. UNAM
  6. Gómez Mont, Carmen (2016). Redes indígenas y lógicas de construcción de capital social :en: Winocur, Rosalía (comp.) Redes Sociodigitales en México, Ciudad de México, FCE
  7. Innovación ciudadana en Iberoamérica http://ciudadania20.org/labsciudadanos/
  8. Ricaurte, Paola. Laboratorios ciudadanos: repensar la universidad y las humanidades digitales (2016) en Red de Humanidads Digitales, Recuperado de: http://humanidadesdigitales.net/blog/2016/04/05/laboratorios-ciudadanos-repensar-la-universidad-y-las-humanidades-digitales/
  9. Toboso Martín, Mario (2014) Perspectiva axiológica en la apropiación social de tecnologías, en: Revista CTS, nº 25, vol. 9, Enero de 2014 (pág. 33–51), recuperado de: http://www.oei.es/cienciayuniversidad/spip.php?article4558&debut_convocatorias=95