Unpacking the power behind Malawi’s digital Status Mindset
It is very important for women to collaborate in business and innovation especially when addressing problems largely impacting women. Meet the two young brains transforming the digital divide for women and girls in Malawi through their innovation centre- Status Mindset
Faith Mathewe is a 23 year old young lady from the southern part of Malawi who grew up in Blantyre the commercial city of Malawi and was raised by a single parent in a woman headed household. Faith holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration obtained at the University of Malawi, The Polytechnic and currently serving as the Marketing Manager for Status Innovation Limited and an Entrepreneurship Facilitator at She Innovates project in Chibavi, Mzuzu the northern part of Malawi. She believes that despite background and all other factors every woman out there deserves an opportunity to unleash her inner potential and should be given an opportunity to do so. Since Status Innovation Centre also focus on providing such platform to young innovators and entrepreneurs, women inclusive to be nurtured and connected, our goals aligned and I felt the need to be part of the greater vision and this is where I met Abigail Kalua.
Abigail Kalua aged 25 is the last born in a family of six. She lives and grew up in the city of Mzuzu, the northern part of Malawi. She is an entrepreneur and a business administrator by profession and graduated from the University of Malawi the polytechnic. Her passion is in ICT and E-commerce and this motivated her to have an interest to join and be part of status innovation limited. Her passion is in making sure that an average rural woman and girl benefits from the digital world just like any other digital citizen.
Status Mindset is an innovation centre established to address the prominent technological challenges that young entrepreneurs, leaders and innovators face in Malawi. What is the current state of affairs in Malawi? How have you solved some of these challenges?
As it stands now only 11.47% of Malawians are using the Internet (Alliance for Affordable Internet, 2019) and also about 85 % of the young innovators, leaders and entrepreneurs do not have access to the required entrepreneurship and technological resources as far as developing meaningful, accessible, usable and scalable solutions in their communities is concerned. This is the case as they lack access to local tailored mentorship programs, funds, digital tools and information as a whole (Well established innovation, technology and entrepreneurship ecosystems) to implement their ideas and solutions.
These alarming statistics just shows how a greater percentage of the population, young innovators, leaders and entrepreneurs in particular in Malawi struggle when it comes to implement solutions that would transform their communities.
Technological challenges such as poor technology infrastructure, high internet costs, lack of digital tools and skills which is evidenced by the statistics that only 11.47% of the population has access to digital space, leaving about 88% of the population that do not have access to the digital world or if they do have access, they fail to connect to a greater population of their supporters, networks and also customer base in Malawi and in the world at large.
As a technology and entrepreneurship based organization in order to address these challenges we developed an innovation, technology and entrepreneurship toolkit which we use in order to upskill young people to develop solutions that are usable, scalable and accessible.
We work and have worked with young people to develop solutions using design thinking (HCD) and the use of cutting edge technologies such as artificial intelligence to develop solutions. As Status Innovation Limited, we always include the technological element in most of our projects to address the challenges.
For example, we have She innovates project where apart from training young people in Entrepreneurship, Innovation, and other skills such as Hairdressing, Designing and Tailoring, we also train them in basic ICT skills and also how to use digital tools and skills in in their businesses. Under this type of project, S‘he’ innovates 100% of the beneficiaries of the solution are young people where 70% of the beneficiaries are young women and girls. We also have She connects project that focuses on bringing basic digital tools and skills to rural marginalized communities. This project has young women and girls as 100% of the beneficiaries. Through the project we establish rural based information centres fully powered by solar energy and fully equipped with low costs solar powered computers. Through the centres women and community members are able to benefit from ICT programs and also access information on various areas such as health, agriculture and education. Aside the information centres we also establish community networks where communities are able to communicate with each other through the use of solar powered routers that operate on a local area network making the community members access the information on our servers freely without data charges.
Tell us about “Go Digital Malawi”?
Go Digital Malawi is a program that aims to enable rural marginalized citizens especially young women and girls who have limited or no access at all to the digital world to have effective access to digital and information technology, resources and skills needed to effectively participate as digital citizens. The program’s core vision and objective is to connect the unconnected. Through this program we also make sure that young people understand and tap-in in the trending new technologies (4th Industrial revolution) such blockchain, virtual reality, artificial intelligence and others.
What have been some of your successes in this journey?
We have been successful in training more than 1000 young men and women in ICT and Design thinking. Through our entrepreneurship based projects we have equipped and supported young people through Tailoring and hairdressing under she innovates projects in Mzuzu. This has helped some of the trainees to secure employment while others have started their own businesses. We have also managed to provide community trainings under Go digital Malawi project by equipping an average Malawian with skills and knowledge on how to use technology tools such as internet to manage and develop their businesses, address problems in their lives and also their societies.
What advice would you give young females looking to get into the 4th industrial revolution- especially in regions that do not have wide access to resources?
Be creative in your ideas and look for alternative resources you can use to bring your ideas to life even when you are in regions that do not have access to wide resources that would limit full implementation of the 4th industrial revolution technologies such as blockchain. For example if you have a challenge of electricity in your area, using solar energy and raspberry pi solar powered computers that consumes less power you can get connected to the digital world, develop locally made solutions that even use artificial intelligence, virtual reality and blockchain. Access and knowledge to the digital skills and world should be taken as a basic need particularly in an era where technology is moving and growing fast as evidence by 4th industrial revolution.
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