Young women worldwide have two weeks left to register to participate in the tech entrepreneurship programme and competition Technovation, with teams asked to create a mobile app from scratch during the three month programme.
Female students aged between 10 and 18 from across the world can register to participate in the Technocation programme. Participants form teams of up to five people, and are asked to design and implement one mobile app per team; with the assistance and mentorship of Technovation coaches worldwide.
Teams pitch their “startup” to the judges at the end of the programme. 10 finalist teams are selected and flown out to San Francisco to present at the World Pitch competition in June, and two winning teams – one aged 10 to 14, and one aged 14 to 18 – will receive US$10,000 each to further work on their app.
Speaking to Disrupt Africa, executive director of Technovation Samantha Quist said the programme aims to encourage more young women to take on roles in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) sectors, and hopes to empower young women to be leaders within their own communities and instrumental in addressing local challenges.
“Women are vastly underrepresented in STEM careers, and especially in technology… Lack of diversity in science and technology stifles innovation,” Quist told Disrupt Africa.
“In Technovation, we challenge girls to develop apps that solve real problems in their communities. We’ve seen teams in Yemen create apps to address early marriage, teams in Nigeria create apps to protect the bicycle traffic police, and teams in India develop apps to prevent molestation of young girls. These are the types of problems that a typical entrepreneur (adult, male) generally wouldn’t think of, yet they’re huge issues,” she said.
According to Quist, the confidence built, the skills learnt and the overall accomplishment of launching a mobile startup will be beneficial to young women regardless of what eventual career they pursue.
“All students who complete the programme will have essentially founded a mobile tech startup – they will have created a real working mobile app that addresses a problem in their local community, written a business plan, and pitched to a panel of judges, just as adult entrepreneurs would do. An amazing accomplishment for girls ages 10 to 18. Most adults never accomplish something so innovative and entrepreneurial,” she said.
“No matter what field the girls pursue in the future, this experience aims to build their confidence and empower them to be leaders in the future.”
Quist says the programme also showcases the potential of technology to have a positive influence in the world, and aims to create powerful female role models to inspire future generations of girls and women.
“By starting from scratch to come up with an idea of a problem they’d like to solve, then developing a mobile app to solve it, then pitching their apps to a panel of judges, young women who complete Technovation get to see first-hand how technology can make a positive influence in the world. They get to create the change they wish to see in their worlds,” Quist said.
According to Quist, the tech entrepreneurship ecosystem needs more women to engage and participate, as innovation will be stifled by a failure to encourage diversity.
“Technology needs diversity, or the pace of innovation slows down. Maximizing the pace of innovation necessitates greater leadership from women.”
Teams and coaches can register to participate in Technovation online.