Sept - Dec 2016
Global Digital Innovation
Edu Tech 


Digital Pioneers open Africa’s doors

Emi Maj is among the new generation of digital pioneers. Her latest passion, connecting people through technology, may sound like a project designed for an advanced highly developed country and it probably is. But the Polish former graphics designer has exported her desire for sharing know-how to the shores of Mozambique.

A struggling economy and still trying to rebuild its infrastructure Mozambique is an unlikely venue to bring the benefits of advanced technological skills. It is a country that needs basic development and with her colleagues, Emi, in a small but very significant way, wants to contribute to change in that country.

Unsatisfied with her work only as a designer she decided to extend a bold Finish initiative into Poland. Called Rails Girls, this not-for-profit project is attracting enthusiastic sponsors and participants. But it is these young thinkers and activists who believe that their commitment will effect change.

This is what they do: working with Webmuses, the group organises community events to create awareness that technology is also for women. And, it is this simple but daring notion that is slowly taking root around the world and challenging a male-dominated enclave.

Rails Girls aims at teaching programing to young people and focuses on girls while keeping the door open to young men. The severe chasm of the digital divide in Africa is well-documented but little, if any, attention is paid to solving problems. One of the problems if that the continent lacks organisations that are interested in enthusing young people to become programers.

Emi is one of the solutions and RailGirls is the project that can fill that worrying gap. After successfully implementing the Rails girls project in Poland, she felt confident about tackling the challenge in Mozambique. After her success with that venture, she seemed enamored with Africa. Her evident attraction for working on the continent bubbled over when she met lawyer Ayesha Dawood, who is also managing director of, a website devoted to spreading relevant information about digital communications internationally.

Ayesha’s observations of the lack of resources available in South Africa for teaching young people about digital media led to her discovery of Rails Girls. Within days of her contact with the group, she met Emi, who fortuitously, was in Johannesburg after her Mozambican, Maputo, project.

That meeting at Wits Art Museum of two dynamic professionals committed to similar objectives snowballed and Ayesha and Emi were soon in purposeful engagement to roll out Rails Girls in Johannesburg. As an initiator and facilitator of the project in South Africa, Ayesha’s international experience at the United Nations and the World Health Organisation, among others, positions her for further success.

Entirely not-for-profit, this project demands nothing less than an extraordinary commitment to promoting digital media to young people. In this project, no one gets paid – not the organisers, not the coaches.

While the elements of coding are taught in a way that excites understanding, the aim is to inspire the young women participants.

Ayesha Dawood sees so much more in Rails Girls and other digital projects which Digitalnfo will be launching: it is also about creating awareness and encouraging young people to become digital inventors for the future.  And Digitalnfo is looking for them.

Now, we hope Emi will take part (either from afar or if she travels here) in her next African adventure with Rails Girls Johannesburg.



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Creator Spaces   Designing Innovation Economics


Ayesha Dawood

I liked this when I came across it “Thinking is a kind of making, and making is a kind of thinking" says Jessie Shefrin former Provost of The Rhode Island School of Design and past Dean of Graduate Studies of The Rhode Island School of Design.

I like this too, alot 'design thinking ... is the expression of communication – the form itself...' that is the response I got when I asked John Maeda, at a talk at MIT this year what design thinking is -- Is it the form, is it the way it is presented .. and how does it impact international affairs? His response has got me mulling on innovation economics – and a very 21st century focus. The innovation economics idea was introduced to me by Professor William Fisher of Harvard Law School, Wilmer Hale Professor of Intellectual Property. And so Professor Fisher I take the liberty to propel this idea to designing innovation economics in the 21st century. So here I am positing Creator Spaces as innovation economics in action. And yes, Prof Fisher, Intellectual Property is important and as you say, only and only if it creatively engages with culture. So I take the creative engaging with the culture of a people, the culture of counties ... to a culture of creation. So, I am building and creating and designing too. Is this Ronald Dworkin`s chain novel theory playing itself out – a step by step building of things.

In particular I focus on Creator and Maker spaces which I call Creator Spaces. It is a movement rapidly gaining traction – and pioneering new pedagogies – tinkering, creator and playful learning pedagogies. No doubt this is influencing and will continue to improve a whole new wave – tinkering, playful learning and learning through play and exploration heralding novel creations as well as iterations in the new edu- tech era.

This is innovation economics birthed. A world of tinkering, software and hardware creation including an immersive engagement with technology and with materials –that is what empowers us to be courageous and creative. To make, to create – the art of playful learning and innovator spirit is boldly borne.

In seeing what we create – both online with immersive engaging of technology to building with our minds and hands to creating with materials to embracing the realm of possibilities and yes frameworks ( the lawyer in me screams legal frameworks as much computational thinking calls for system frameworks ). That is the power of Creator Space. They energise, motivate, uplift and propel growth in ones own sense of self, in creativity, in making, in building, in designing and cognition and critical thinking. And this is why it makes sense – it is innovation economics in both the digital and physical – a new form of a connected world – a world of immersive technology made simple – a world of creative making and a world of design and designing new things – software, new hardware, new things and while the search for new hardware forms and hardware materials is increasingly opening up new possibilities in materials.... Creator Spaces are about working with what is available as well making new from afresh and in that process new forms are birthed – New software creation is Creator Space and open source learning and remixing also lend impetus to this. See what amazing creations Scratch, an open source computer programme inspiring community learning and inspiring kids to create stories, animations and games - initiated at the MIT Media Lab Lifelong Kindergarden Group - is doing for kids globally here

Designing Creator Spaces is about inspiring people to take charge of their minds and ideas. I marvelled at watching the excitement and agility of the kids at MIT `s Scratch Day this May. Boundless enthusiasm and fun creations – and such confidence.

A new creator pedagogy in the making – yes – but maybe not so new in Africa and emerging economies where creator crafts and tinkering necessities were birthed. It is this staple that will take the shift to tinkering and artful play in emerging economies to levels unparalleled and a boon for innovation economics. Now that is design thinking innovation economics.  Creator Spaces is innovation economics. And yes, Intellectual Property matters.

Ayesha Dawood is a lawyer, writer and artist and educator. She is a Harvard and South African educated lawyer (@ConsultAyesha) She has an LL.M from Harvard Law School and is a recent Fellow of the Weatherhead Centre for International Affairs, Harvard University.