Tech girls looking to change Guyana
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2018 Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative (YLAI) Alumna, Evie Gurchuran
2018 Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative (YLAI) Alumna, Evie Gurchuran

GIRLS across the country are set to benefit from enhanced access to opportunities with the “Girls and Technology can change Guyana” project crafted by Evie Kanhai- Gurchuran, a 2018 Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative (YLAI) Alumna.

As part of her YLAI fellowship, Gurchuran has crafted the project in response to a gap in understanding and utilising Information and Communication Technology (ICT) she believes exists in the local context.

“We’re really trying to understand what are the hindrances or the perceptions of why more girls and women are not choosing to go into fields that call for computing and ICT,” Gurchuran, who is the Managing Director of the Guyana Chapter of ‘Girls in Tech’, told the Guyana Chronicle in a recent interview.

There is a low interest in ICT for some people, according to Gurchuran. She explained that persons have their cellphones and they are comfortable working on apps. However, she posited that this does not necessarily transfer into employable or entrepreneurial skills.

As such, the project was crafted and awarded two of sixty project grants, from over 200 proposals being submitted by YLAI 2018 participants. The project encompasses wide-reaching data collection, targeting as many females as possible in Guyana; capacity-building and education; and creating digital or digitally-based solutions for communities.

Central to the execution of the project is the data collection component, since this is expected to guide interventions and generally, how the rest of the project will function specifically.

“The project that we created actually came out of the need to find data in Guyana and we would really like to give a voice to young women in particular, about how they feel about technology,” she explained.

And in collecting data, surveys have been disseminated online and in-person through the Rights of the Child Commission. Evie and her team of volunteers have also conducted focus groups sessions, observations and interviews. An essay competition was also launched, but was narrowed to garner the opinions of females between the ages of 13 and 19. This competition closes on April 27.

“The greatest thing we want to achieve is understanding why more people, and girls in particular, aren’t saying they want to do a foundation package (a locally offered computer course) over why I should go do a cooking class for example,” Evie said. “Is it that cooking class is available but the computer class isn’t? Is it that I have a stove and I have an oven but I don’t have a computer? – What are the reasons, what are the hindrances? That’s what we want to know.”

“By 2025, 75 per cent of the jobs in the world are going to require some skills in using the computer, in using a tablet and using the Internet and knowing how to navigate these,” Minister of Public Telecommunications related at recent event geared at getting youth involved in ICT.

So far, the team has visited Parika and will be visiting Berbice and Linden.

“Even though Parika is just an hour and a half away, there is like a total culture shock,” Gurchuran noted. “We went to Parika and we asked ‘why don’t you put your business on Facebook’ or told persons ‘Let’s help you’ and they’re like ‘no they don’t want to’.”

Evie Gurchuran presenting her pitch in the finals of the YLAI Innovation Pitch Competition, Washington DC, October 2018

This experience was a practical one that helped to show the group that there are still many persons who are not au fait with ICT.

“We are trying to understand why people aren’t accessing or utilising digital means to improve their business processes or even improve their marketing or advertising, for many, they just don’t see it as necessary,” she explained.

The process of data collection will conclude at the end of April, and the findings will be made available to the public. The intention is to offer the raw data to funding agencies who may want to use this to spur projects, she said.

The project will then move into its other phases. Using “Sites Builders”- a company Evie co-founded with her husband, five community websites will be launched.

“This aspect of the project will culminate in the creation of a website for Linden and Berbice, as not only a tourism feature,” the woman said. “If you’re heading to Linden for example, you should access ‘linden.gy’ for example, and see all the places where you can eat or stay.”

And the group aims to have a newsletter feature where girls in the communities write about what affects them. “We’ve already been part-funded for the second part of this campaign which is called ‘Girl tell the world’- just to encourage young women to write about their everyday life and problems in their communities, just so that we can know what’s going on,” she said.

This creation of digital directories and the newsletters aims to spur digital entrepreneurship.

There will also be workshops conducted by Evie and her partners, on topics such as “Responsible Disruption – Positioning Businesses to achieve Social Good” and a “Data Pitch Workshop” for women to incorporate data into their business proposals, to have a greater chance in securing financing and support.

And finally, she indicated, “If there are problems in the communities that we can work to solve, then we will be working with our teams to create solutions through mobile platforms, then we will do that as well.”

“If it is that we need a mobile app to track our goods when it’s going from Parika to Georgetown, then Sites is going to work with a partner to assist these entrepreneurs to put a tech focus to what they’re doing and improve their business processes,” she explained.

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