Most people working in the tech sector are men, and as a result, a lot of the products and services they design are inherently biased towards male users, says Anna-Laura Seifermann, a 28-year-old Digital for Development (D4D) professional from Germany who works as a Regional Programme Manager at Viamo — a global enterprise that helps NGOs, government agencies and businesses to communicate with remote communities through mobile phones.
In this role, Anna-Laura supports clients in the East and Southern Africa region to develop content that can be easily transmitted to remote mobile users. This content often contains crucial information on disaster preparedness, disease prevention, or education opportunities, amongst other topics. During the COVID-19 pandemic, for example, this system was used to deliver remote trainings via voice messages.
As a woman, she says, she is more aware of the gender dimension of her work: “When we were recording the training manuals, I made sure that women were equally represented and that the messages also spoke to them — ether by using female characters or by addressing needs and solutions that are unique to women. This an example of the many reasons why it is so important to have women working on the design of digital solutions.”
Anna-Laura is one of the ten young professionals from Africa and Europe that have been selected to participate in the #GirlsinD4D campaign, an initiative by the AU-EU D4D Hub aimed at giving visibility to inspiring young female professionals in the D4D field to encourage more girls and women to pursue careers that contribute to an inclusive and sustainable digital transformation.
From business school to D4D
“A lot of people have the misconception that you need a technical background to work in the D4D sector, but this is not true,” explains Anna-Laura, who holds a Master’s degree in Business and Development Studies from Copenhagen Business School in Denmark. After graduation, her business management knowledge allowed her to kick off her career working for Oracle and Microsoft in Ireland. Once she gained substantial experience in the tech sector, she moved to Rwanda to work in international development. In the meanwhile, she also tried herself as an entrepreneur and co-founded a start-up in the field of space technology and co-led another one in e-commerce.
Now based in Uganda, Anna-Laura has found her place working at the intersection between technology and development. “It is so important to make technology more accessible to people — it is essential to shape a better future.”
Anna-Laura talks passionately about intersectional feminism and is aware that as a white European woman it has been easier for her to access professional opportunities in the D4D sector compared to her female colleagues from Uganda. According to her, this problem becomes more evident in leadership positions: “When we look into the very senior roles in the D4D field on the African continent, there is not only an underrepresentation of women, but also of Africans in general. This is something that needs to change.”
Anna-Laura is strongly committed to contributing to more equal access to education, career knowledge and employment opportunities. As such, she is always eager to share her experience and skills with other young women. “Giving more visibility to female role models is the first step. A more diverse representation can encourage other women to pursue careers in this field,” she concludes.