• 1

Focus on Women in ICT: Uganda

Catherine NiwagabaDuring the recent AIS'16, we met with Catherine Niwagaba a Systems Engineer from Uganda who shared with us how her career path took an unexpected turn a few years ago and her thoughts on women in the ICT sector in Uganda.

"My dream was to pursue a degree in Medicine," explained Catherine. "However, I had a backup plan for the Advanced Level Secondary stage of my education, just in case my grades were not sufficient to get me into the School of Medicine. I studied both Biology and Chemistry but also added Physics and Mathematics. That subject combination could get me into either Medicine or Engineering. I failed to get to School of Medicine by a very small margin. A friend of mine then advised me to try Computer Science which, back then, was a relatively new course but promised many exciting opportunities in future. I took her advice and I've never looked back since."

Catherine highlighted that Internet infrastructure has improved in the recent past in her country, which has extended the use of ICT in many areas including, but not limited to, the Banking, Medical, Education and Agriculture sectors. All these sectors require qualified and skilled ICT personnel to implement and manage IT systems and carry out other ICT related duties, which increases the number of jobs available for ICT professionals.

On the other hand Catherine thinks that women do face a number of constraints and challenges in the ICT industry and one of these is unfavourable work schedules. System maintenance and deployments are carried out in the maintenance window which is usually outside normal work hours and during weekends. Women are particularly affected by this because they often have social and family responsibilities that are neglected when they have to work overtime. This problem is not unique to women in ICT though, women working in many other fields, such as the medical sector, experience similar issues. Another challenge is that Information Technology changes so rapidly that most IT professionals especially women fail to cope with new trends.

Catherine adds that, in ICT, ''Many women tend to remain within their comfort zones and don’t advance their skills, which could be due to financial and social challenges. This kills creativity and growth of the ICT industry in a long run. That aside most courses provided at our Universities and Institutes fail to provide adequate hands on skills. Women in ICT then find themselves unable to compete favourably for technical jobs."

Finding a role model and mentor is one way that women can become more successful in the ICT world. Catherine says her role model is the current Executive Director IT Directorate at the Bank of Uganda. 'He is very experienced in various IT fields but remains amicable and gives valuable guidance whenever sought,'' she says. 

Catherine says she is optimistic about women having the ability to transform the ICT industry in Uganda. "We are seeing technology in almost every sector now and if the challenges women face are addressed, I see no reason as to why Ugandan women in ICT can’t contribute fully. My advice to young women in ICT in Uganda, and elsewhere, is study hard, read extensively, network with other women in ICT to share experiences and knowledge and, lastly, become innovative."

She adds that there is need to mentor young women, identify talented women and empower them to reach their full potential and this can be done by the Government, institutions of higher learning and various Internet communities among others.

Catherine works at the Bank of Uganda as a Systems Engineer in the Infrastructure Development section of the IT Operations Department. With a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science in hand she continued her formative years with computer network training in Cisco Technology and received CCNA and CCNP certifications from Makerere University. She has over nine years of professional experience in the IT field.

© 2017 AFRINIC. All Rights Reserved. Designed By AFRINIC