#RewritingTheCode

4 Senegalese women create lands-rights app, part of a push to teach girls to code

(Photo by Ann Hermes/The Christian Science Monitor via Getty Images)

Four Senegalese women have co-created an app called Sigeste, which is helping people in their country find out which plots of land are for sale and avoid scammers. By digitizing title deeds from local authorities and mapping them in the app, people can see which plots of land are really available and avoid “buying” a plot that has actually been bought already. “These are free bits of land, and these are taken. But only the council can see who owns each bit of land – we protect people’s data and don’t share that information,” said 24-year-old Nellya Maylis, one of the four young programmers from Saint-Louis who built the app.

Their effort is one of several apps built by young women to address local problems — the result of a campaign named #RewritingTheCode, that aims to teach girls between the ages of 5 and 24  to code. The campaign hopes to subvert the idea — or “rewrite the code” — that careers in technology are not meant for girls. The Senegalese government has set up competitions, opened new universities, organized a start-up weekend for girls and is building a 26-hectare digital park, all to motivate girls’ interest in getting a job in the growing STEM fields. “I can imagine a Senegalese woman at the head of Google without a problem,” said  Bitilokho Ndiaye, adviser on technology and gender at the country’s ministry of post and telecommunications. “We’ve started a programme to ensure the training of girls in technology and everything digital, as we realised that there really aren’t a lot of young girls and women in the sector. We’re also trying to push entrepreneurship — to give girls what they need to be entrepreneurs in the tech sector,” she added.

Other mobile apps created by young women include one that offers an exchange of books and online classes, one to help young mothers track their babies’ health and another one which lets users report trash in the streets to local authorities. “Women are dynamic, they build things that may not be visible yet, but you’ll be surprised by the contribution to technology that women here will make in Senegal and beyond,” said Ndiaye. “When you hear women talk, you realise that they are in fact beyond what the state has proposed for them.”

Read the full story at The Guardian.

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