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Building skills in technology
November 26, 2014

“By building skills in technology creation, people can develop innovative solutions to community and economic problems and empower themselves to explore their full potential.”

– Regina Agyare

A volunteer teaches on a laptop surounded by young girls.
A Tech Needs Girls volunteer conducts a lesson in writing computer code with girls in Accra. Credit: R. Agyare

Software developer Regina Agyare believes Information Technology (IT) can drive significant social change. A 2014 Mandela Washington Fellow, Agyare helped launch the U.N.-related project Tech Needs Girls in Ghana. Her own company, Soronko Solutions, uses information technology to develop solutions allowing clients to reach their potential.

YALI Network Question: How does IT promote human potential?

Agyare: Technology is a tool and an enabler to help people take an idea or solution from inception to execution. IT can help your idea leapfrog infrastructure gaps and impact a large number of people. By building skills in technology creation, people can develop innovative solutions to community and economic problems and empower themselves to explore their full potential.

Question: Describe Soronko’s efforts to pursue those goals with girls in Ghana.

Agyare: Ghanaian women and girls are lagging behind in developing IT skills. At Soronko we run a project called Tech Needs Girls, which is a mentorship program where we teach girls between the ages of 6 and 18 years old how to code and create with IT tools. The girls are trained by young female mentors who study science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) in the university. They use a unique curriculum, which makes coding fun and allows for creativity and problem solving.

Some of the girls in these programs are from slum communities and could be forced into early marriage. By teaching them coding skills, we hope to help them empower themselves economically and continue their education.

Q: Have the newly trained girls been able to move into jobs?

Agyare: Tech Needs Girls alumnae are currently doing internships at the biggest software company in Ghana, called Rancard Solutions.

Q: What has Soronko Solutions accomplished in helping Ghanaian businesses better use technology to expand?

Agyare: At Soronko Solutions, we believe in using technology to help Ghanaian businesses grow and gain visibility. We have built services to help a wide range of clients automate processes to make business operations more efficient, increase turnover and bring their services to the customer’s doorstep.

Q: How does someone begin to work with or for Soronko?

Agyare: It is very accessible to work with Soronko. We are always looking for young individuals who are passionate about using technology to drive small businesses or promote social change. We also offer internships and sponsor clubs in the university where we train young women in STEM fields and prepare them for the job market or starting their own business.

Q: Soronko is working like some corporate and nonprofit hubs in the larger IT community that launch further waves of innovation in the communities surrounding them. How does that work?

Agyare: Innovation hubs are very important because they provide the space, training, skills development and inspiration to unlock the creative potential in our youth. They also allow for collaboration and for individuals with different skills and abilities to integrate their talents to solve community problems and develop themselves.

Q: What can YALI Network members do to start a hub in a community?

Agyare: The first thing would be to get a space to house hub activities. If one does not have access to a space, the next best thing is to create a virtual hub. That’s an online community of people where knowledge is shared, innovation is encouraged and interactivity is expected. Hub members can meet regularly in open spaces or use community resources and spaces.

Q: Can their facilities also be meeting and networking spaces?

Agyare: Definitely, hub facilities can be meeting and networking spaces. It is actually important for the ecosystem and the success of hubs that meetings and networking among the members is encouraged.

Q: Are innovation hubs emerging in more places in Africa?

Agyare: Yes, and they are needed to address issues like Africa’s huge unemployment problem and to engage young people to become innovative change-makers and problem solvers.

Lukonga Lindunda, a Mandela Washington Fellowship alumus, provided this interactive map of innovation hubs around Africa. Read more about Lindunda and BongoHive, the innovation hub he co-founded in Zambia.