A few weeks ago, Rwandan IT entrepreneur and advocate Akaliza Keza Ntwari, was awarded with the honorary Doctorate of Science from the University of Kent, Canterbury, UK. She holds a degree in Multimedia Technology and Design at the same university.
Akaliza was selected, among others, for her contribution in Girls in ICT Rwanda a group of female ICT entrepreneurs and professionals, whose major goal is to alter the stereotype held by many young girls that ICT is a man’s field, where she is a member.
The recognition the honorary degree has placed on her career, Akaliza hopes, will generate more support for groups such as Girls in ICT Rwanda, competitions like Ms. Geek Africa, and other initiatives that seek to improve access and development of positive tech solutions.
Last year, she was selected by United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres to be part of the 20 member high-level panel on digital cooperation, tasked to identify policy, research and information gaps, and make proposals to strengthen international cooperation in the digital space.
For Akaliza, the experience opened her eyes to many new ideas, theories, and values held by the different panel members.
Akaliza says the experience opened her eyes to many new ideas and theories. /Courtesy photos.
“Prior to this, I mainly discussed technology with regards to youth and women, particularly in Rwanda and the region. The Panel allowed me to learn about solutions and challenges happening across the globe - for example nations with an aging population, or with much more defined gender roles than those that exist here. Hearing from the different panel members truly broadened my thinking on what the best approach was for digital cooperation.
I remember at our first meeting, I thought it would be impossible for all of us to find something we agreed on. But by the third meeting we had found some common ground. I thought I was open minded before, but I have since learnt to be aware of some of my seemingly innocent biases and assumptions and to be more ready to listen and learn. Of course, I was also reminded that my voice is important, and to stand up for the values I hold dear. Overall, I am incredibly thankful for the experience,” she says.
On achieving a fair and safe digital space she adds: “I cannot say I believe this goal is completely achievable, at least in my lifetime. Instead we should continually seek to improve fairness and safety in the digital world, just as we seek this in the physical world. There are many issues that we don’t understand, for example, the impact on our mental health regarding our activities in the digital space. As we learn, and hopefully, share findings openly, we can seek to create healthier and happier environments for all.”
Akaliza in 2013, was awarded as the Most Outstanding Woman in ICT, for her outstanding contribution to her organisation and society and has since trained many young Rwandans under her multimedia company, Shaking Sun.