Ghana Digital Roadmap Conference: Microsoft Windows Insider Chief, Dona Sarkar shares simple yet often overlooked insights on Digital Inclusion.

May 16, 2019

Ghana Digital Roadmap Conference

Dona Sarkar, head of the Windows Insider Program at Microsoft was a panel speaker at the Ghana Digital Roadmap Conference. She joined other panelist in discussing Automation, E-Government services and Data at the event held in Accra, Ghana.

the only way digital transformation can happen is for universities, private sector and the government to work together

Dona informed the audience that Microsoft was working to build up the tech talent in the region. Microsoft just announced Africa Developmment Centre sites in Nairobi and Lagos and plans to staff the centres with local talent. Microsoft will also partner with some of the local universities in Africa to build its talent pipeline.

Digital Transformation

Sharing her thoughts on Digital Transformation she said all the stakeholders will have to work together. “The only way digital transformation can happen is for universities, private sector and the government to work together.”

Ghana has one of the highest literacy rates in the world and an average age of 18, she shared. “You have tremendous benefits over the west. You are mobile first and most of your youth have never lived in a world without technology.”

Think like a Tech Company

I recommend you(the government) think like a tech company and behave like one. That means put young people to work she said. The more you think like a tech company the faster you are going to innovate. Do small experiments.

Why are we not putting the youth to work she asked?

Ghanamost advanced airport, … yet I had to stand in line to fill a form, … that took the longest time.

Giving an example Dona said; Ghana has one of the most advanced airport i have ever seen. I’ve been to 80 countries.
From the moment we landed, It took 15 minutes through customs and security, it was insane. Yet i had to stand in line to fill a form, that took the longest time. There’s no need for a form. You already know all about me. I had to get a visa, it was a complex process.

Government, Co-Create with the youth

She encouraged the government to co-create with the youth. Your youth is the greatest asset you have she said.
Don’t teach computer science the way you teach english or maths. Don’t teach it from books and then take test. That doesn’t mean anything. Instead have their graduation project be solve a local problem. Have them be project based, then you’ll know your youth are learning, growing and understand the value of the technology.

No Tech Talent in Africa?

Sharing her view on the (Jumia) no tech talent conversation in Africa, Dona said, i couldn’t disagree more. It is an incorrect statement.
This is why i say that. The hires from the Africa continent are our(Microsoft) strongest engineers. That’s speaking as one who hires from across the globe.

The talent from Africa is the most innovate and by far looking to solve real problems because they have to. They are trying to solve real problems like how do you have clean water, reduce maternal mortality. It is not just coding skills, it is the desire to do the right thing. So i think it is two parts.

The only problem i’ve seen on the continet and true in Asia and South America is gate keepers shared Dona Sakar. People in position of authority who belive peolpe need to earn their way to a place where they are allowed to solve problems. In Silicon Valley there are no gate keepers, that is the culture.

Celebrate home grown CEO’s

Give young people hard problems to solve she told the government leaders present. One thing we must do is story tell and Hero make these things. Dona couldn’t stress this more, “Celebrate home grown CEO’s“.

Ghana Digital Roadmap Conference is a conversation platform to review Ghana’s aging ICT policy through digitization, for an accelerated development. The theme of the event is Moving Ghana Beyond Aid; Expanding The Local Digital Economy.

The Ghana government says this is in line with its digital opportunities program. To generate ideas developing a digital strategy and an implementation plan to establish Ghana as the leader in ICT innovation in Sub-Saharan Africa by 2023.