Google gives female researchers shot in the arm


Image: Dr Yirsaw Ayalew. By John Churu
Dr Yirsaw Ayalew

By John Churu, Gaborone, Botswana

In a bid to encourage the full participation of women in research and development issues, Google has stepped in to offer financial assistance to some women who travelled to Botswana for the African Conference on Software Engineering and Applied Computing (ACSEAC). Dr. Yirsaw Ayalew, a lecturer at the University of Botswana, who was tasked with organizing the conference, told that the fact that very few women entered the field of software engineering was a cause for concern for Google.

“Even in the international community, the participation of women is scarce but there are initiatives and incentives to encourage women to come to a forum like this. However, in Africa, no such initiatives and incentives exist that’s why women participation is always a cause for great concern,” explained Ayalew.

He added that these two female researchers who received the Google assistance were from Uganda. “These women were not financially fit but had their papers accepted by a panel of assessors. That is when Google came to their rescue.”

He said at this time, the conference which is in its second year, has not reached a stage where they attract a lot of papers for presentation. However, not all African software engineers who have the best papers will have the financial capacity to participate at such conferences due to financial and other constraints.

“As ASEAC, we have to find a way to encourage the full participation of women. This would go a long way. These are the issues that we need to address. He however, felt the support should come from top to bottom. “I would expect this initiative to be more at government level or any other higher level for example the universities should have a special dispensation for women software engineers.”

Ayalew has big hopes for the ACSEAC in the coming decade. “Ten years from now I would like to see this conference as one of the major conferences for gathering African engineers, researchers and computing technologists. This should be one of the major events which mean more researchers and more papers so that we have good quality of papers. The moment we compromise on quality, that would be the downfall of ACSEAC,” he explained.     

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