SA tech prize ‘to beat white, male bias’

One tech entrepreneur at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University stands to win R100,000 as part of a programme to encourage diversity in ICT.

NMMU and non-profit Happimo NPC are sponsoring the award which is available to Masters and PhD graduates from the Department of Computing Sciences and the School of ICT at the university.

“One of the deciding factors in choosing NMMU is that it has the most diverse postgrad student programme in South Africa. The future of technology entrepreneurship in Africa can’t be white and male. We need more black and female tech entrepreneurs. I believe NMMU can produce them,” said Alan Knott-Craig Jnr, Happimo NPC founder.

Despite the fact that women make up a significant proportion of the online audience, hiring practices at major corporations reflect a heavy male bias.

Search giant Google recently revealed in its Diversity Report that women make up just 30% of employees, but that includes jobs in non tech positions where women make up nearly half (48%) of employees.

No equity

In the US, just 2% of Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter employees are black.

Knott-Craig Jnr, who studied accounting, has an emotional attachment to NMMU because of his desire to study computer science. He said that it was his ambition that qualified people start businesses rather than work for corporates.

“I believe we need more postgrads in computer science, and that these individuals should start businesses rather than get jobs. The fellowship is an incentive for students to finish their masters or PhD and then to become an entrepreneur.”

The fellowship winner will be required to commit at least one year to the start-up and neither Happimo nor NMMU will take an equity stake in the venture.

The winner is also able to use the money to pay off student debt, said Knott-Craig Jnr.

“As has become apparent during the student protests of the last two weeks, many young people are crippled by study debt. In addition many struggle to find the money to start their own business venture once leaving university. This means that there is very little incentive for would-be entrepreneurs to complete post-graduate studies.”

In addition to completing a Masters or PhD in Computer Science at NMMU, prospective tech entrepreneurs must also join or launch a start-up by August 2016 to qualify.

Professor Jean Greyling, head of Computing Sciences at NMMU said that graduates’ drive is of benefit to SA.

“Combining this drive with a focus on entrepreneurship is a win-win combination which we fully support.”


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SA tech prize ‘to beat white, male bias’