FITIS Women in IT Forum 2017 – IT for a better society

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Held in parallel to Infotel 2017, the Women In IT Forum 2017 was organized by FITIS and held at the Committee Room B of the BMICH. Starting off the day’s proceedings was a keynote speech by Chitranganie Mubarak, Chairwoman – ICTA. Her topic was about the “Role IT plays in Life of Women today. Can we escape?

She started off by explaining that the ICT sector is growing. At present, there are more job openings than skilled qualified takers in Sri Lanka. Despite this opportunity, the gender gap is growing, currently only 26% of the total industry workforce globally is taken up by women. This rate is even lower in developing country. Therefore, the absence of women in the leadership role is also a huge deterrent to the industry.

Women in IT Forum
Chithranganie Mubarak delivering her speech

She went onto highlight that women were heavily involved in pioneering the computer programming industry. In the early 1980’s, computer programming was more fashionable to do than law or physical science. In the year 1984, a very primitive computer was brought into the Sri Lankan market, which was marketed as a gadget for boys.

In addition, a lot of movies of that time depicted men as technologically literate, leading technology to become a man’s world. This resulted in women dropping out of tech, Therefore, the decreased participation of women in the ICT field is just a complete change of perception and not a norm.

Chithranganie went on to explain at the Women in IT Forum, that the ICTA is lifting women out of poverty, bringing a greater gender equality in the workplace. This not only social justice but makes business sense. For example, hiring women will have a positive impact on profits.

Women in IT Forum 2017

She spoke about an initiative launched in 2016 which was the Women ICT Chapter. This was in collaboration with the UN, and Korea. Here, a curriculum was developed for building capacity of women at the grassroots in using ICT in their daily lives.

Chithranganie concluded by sharing about Suhuruliya, where volunteers were trained as knowledge agents, where they do their own workshops with the content developed by thue chapter to educate people in their areas.

Next up was Nattida Sanguansin

Nattida, the Managing Director of Buzzebeez Co. Ltd, Thailand spoke about what her company does. Buzzeebees is a unified privilege platform across businesses and corporate verticals that enhance privilege/ e-commerce concept through social media on mobile and Tablets. In addition, Nattida is also sales and marketing director for Iconcept Co Ltd.

Nattida’s session at the Women in IT Forum delved into how she started her career. She grew up in a business family. In 1998, Thailand faced a huge financial crisis. This, in turn, affected her family and her family debt increased by 3x, resulting in the loss of the comfortable lifestyle she had. She didn’t want to inherit the family business, but rather, wanted to do something on her own.

Women in IT Forum 2017
Nattida Sanguansin speaking at the Forum

Nattida pursued her studies and completed two degrees in Economics and Business Administration while in Thailand. From there, she traveled to the UK, where she did software engineering and also completed her Masters. Following that, she began working as a consultant at KPMG in Thailand.

During her work, she managed to see many businesses in a short period of time. In fact, she learned about 10 businesses in different sectors within just 2 years. Nattida didn’t stop there. She got her Six sigma black belt, learnt about business implementation, started developing a software and proceeded to start up a company in Thailand. You guessed, it, that company was Buzzeebee.

Women in IT Forum 2017Nattida wanted to do something sustainable, so she came up with the three triangle model.

  1. Corporate
  2. Customer
  3. Connect SME’s

She also added that the programmer has to keep in mind that they have 7 seconds to capture the user’s attention in a mobile app. If not where the user would simply uninstall the app. From there, she spoke about balancing family and life as an entrepreneur Nattida then explained about the Buzzeebeez Ecosystem. She ended her presentation with the following statement: “It’s not about money, it’s about how to make everyone lives better”.

Next up at the Women in IT Forum 2017 was a Panel Discussion

Women in IT Forum 2017
The Panel Discussion at the Women in IT Forum 2017

Moderated by Sharmini Wickremasekera, Chief Risk Officer – LOLC Group, the panellists and what they spoke about was as follows:

  • Rena Chai (Chief Marketing and Operations Officer) – Microsoft Asia Pacific spoke about empowerment and balancing work and life
  • Buddhima Subasinghe – Academic Researcher, TV presenter and Scholar spoke about the Advantage of being an IT literate woman. She also spoke about the improper use of information and how being IT literate can help overcome such problems.
  • Esther Mc Intosh – Country Director, WUSC Sri Lanka spoke about going “Towards an inclusive Sri Lankan economy: gendering the ICT sector or greater global competitiveness. What is our responsibility? As such, she spoke about WUSC and stated that gender stereotypes are defined between the age of 5 to 7. She also spoke about a framework for economic inclusion on 4Ps:
    • People – broad understanding of the individual religion, belief etc.
    • Place – Geographic inclusion
    • Process – Community, Schools, Training Sectors, Private sector employment (Obtaining and retaining employment in IT is a huge challenge)
    • Policies
  • Shahani Markus – Founder/CEO and Chairperson, Emojot Inc spoke about The Future: a message to all young females. Her discussion topic dealt with High levels of automation (Robotic staff), new business models (Network Orchestrators), how we can prepare for the future and the Human Cloud

M. Nivetha and R. Jenniffer shared their experience in excelling in the IT field. Both are working but simultaneously putting their efforts for digital marketing at Extreme SEO Internet Solutions, which is a subsidiary of Shree Vengadeshwaraa Networks (PVT) Ltd that provides Enterprise Digital Marketing services for businesses. Both of them participated at Echelon South Asia Summit 2017 held in Singapore. Both spent so many years putting their efforts to become IT staff because of limited opportunities in their villages that were impacted severely by the war.

With that, the FITIS Women in IT Forum 2017 came to an end.

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