First off I would like to give a huge round of applause and tip about ten hats to the organising team of the Afrotech Fest event. It was fantastic to say the least. I would also like to extend the plaudits to the hosts (abiola, Carl Konadu) and everyone who volunteered, it was a great event. Well done all!
The 7 items below were garnered from the second day of the event (Saturday 27th January 2018) as I was not able to attend the first day but I heard raving reviews about it.
In addition, there were three venues on the day, youth venue, venue 1 and venue 2. I tried my best to jostle between venue 1 and 2 on the day, and the following does not capture the whole event. But it captures most of it.
So let’s begin…
1. Technologists Must Broaden the Context
The insightful Ade Adewunmi was first up on the scene at venue 1 and delivered an inspiring talk about Responsible Disruption which gave technologists in the room a lot to think about.
She gave thought provoking discussion points about thinking more of what people might use your technology for using examples such as, social media platforms and the fake news saga, platforms being used for hatred and bigotry and the hilarious story of a shed being the highest rated restaurant on TripAdivsor.
As we design these technological products, it is important for us to also think about the wider implications and possible impacts these could have. Yes we design them for certain intended purposes but we must not ignore the fact that people can abuse the system for destructive purposes.
2. Do your Part to Change the Face of Tech
Eunice started her talk with a thought provoking question.
‘What does a Tech Entrepreneur look like?’
If you do an image search for terms like ‘Software Engineer’ ‘Tech Entrepreneur’ or ‘Programmer’, you are likely to get a stereo-typical set of images (white man at a computer) which does not depict the true landscape of the industry.
Eunice is on a mission to change the face of tech to include people that look like her- black women. To do this, Eunice is releasing a book called ‘Founding Women’ which would encourage more women in Africa or from Africa to work in the tech industry.
We should encourage one another to tell our story and highlight it in our communities. That way, the younger generation can easily aspire to be like someone they can identify with.
3. Know What You’re Consenting To
Abi’s message about data awareness was eye opening. Starting with the question: “Is your location settings turned on right now?”, she gave various examples on the the data we give out to corporations without fully knowing it.
How many of us know what’s in the Spotify Terms of Service? What about Facebook and so on? Your data is being sold without you knowing what you’re giving up.
Get more involved. GDPR (General Data Protiection Regulation) has become important and the government is pushing for it to become ubiquitous. That means there needs to be a diverse range of ideas from different backgrounds to supplement these decisions and regulations.
4. It’s not Too Late
Helen Gould ( go easy, just be)
Before the Afrotech Fest event, I was simply looking forward to watching the Black Panther movie. But as soon as Helen began her talk, I became eager, excited, and ecstatic to see the new Black Panther movie.
Helen Gould’s excitement is infectious and the Black Panther introduction was a good way to start her talk about black people finally breaking barriers and doing great things.
She used Wakanda Vibranium as a prop for what could have been, if the resources from Africa were utilised for the enrichment of the people instead of being forcefully shipped to the west.
Go see the Black Panther movie when it comes out. But also use it as latch or prop to know that there is a shift happening and the time is coming for the black community to truly shine. Tech might just be that gateway.
5. The democratisation of Venture Capital is here to Stay
Paris Petgrave (Paris Petgrave)
I cannot remember the exact stats for the percentage of Venture-backed black-owned businesses in the UK but the numbers are heart-breaking. However, there is hope as the eloquent Paris of Rare Seed Capital highlighted at the event.
Founders of Rare Seed Capital on a mission to change the game by investing in a diverse range of companies both in the type of business and the people running it. Paris also touched on crypto-currency and why it is a key ingredient in the democratisation of Venture Capital.
If you are finding it hard to raise money for your business, reach out to Rare Seed Capital or try crowdfunding or crypto-currency ICOs. The barrier for access to funding is coming down and we should all do our best to support minorities.
6. Question the source of the data
Panel on Machine Learning
There were quite a few other things happening at venue 2- mostly workshops, interactive presentations and panel discussions.
I attended the machine learning panel discussions and it opened up a lot about what’s happening in this relatively new field oftechnology. Lots of examples, lots of insights and lots to think about.
One key takeaway which got me thinking was, where the data used for machine learning is coming from. A lot of the data sets used to train the algorithms are often skewed towards a certain demographic which can be dangerous and excludes certain communities.
If you are using machine learning for any projects, be sure to question the data used for the training sets. At the rate in which the industry is moving, it is important certain people and communities and not left behind. There should be more diverse groups on Machine Learning projects.
7. The Gaming Industry needs you
BAME in Game Panel
Last panel for the day was all about the game. Having played a lot video games but not given much thought to the people behind them, it was good to get a glimpse of what ethnic minorities go through in the gaming industry.
The panel talked about the lack of diversity in the gaming industry, the problems it leads to and what the outcomes are. A prime example is, how black characters are often portrayed in video games- stereotypical afro look with an accent.
It was good to hear Momo Pixel’s story about creating her viral game Hair Nah, her struggles with developers, the appreciation from the black community upon release and the ripple effects it had across the board.
Represent yourself in design conversations, call out anything you feel is inappropriate and is not representative of your community. Get more involved, encourage parents to allow their children to work in the gaming industry.
- Was in awe of the live subtitles on the screens using- Ai-live.com
- Absolutely loved the Poem by Nikky Norton Shaffu
- Quick shout out to Loraine James for giving us a quick tutorial on making dope music
- I heard great things about Pivotal labs
- I heard great things about the Elixir workshop
In all, great event.
Can’t wait for the next one!
By the way if you are in London next week Friday (16th Feb 2018) You should come down to BTNG’s first event of the year ‘Celebrating African women in Tech’. You can find out more info here.