Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Ada Lovelace Day: Celebrating Abi Jagun

I'm honoured to participate in the Ada Lovelace Day again this year.

In the spirit of writing about a woman who has inspired me in the technical realm, again I did not have to look very far. Last year I blogged about Dr. Nancy Hafkin, who has written widely about how information & communication technologies (ICTs) can promote and facilitate social and economic development in Africa, particularly for women, and who I have met.

So again, this year I have decided to write about another woman who I am fortunate to know personally. Dr. Abi Jagun is a telecommunications and development researcher - specifically the impact of technology on society, particularly how mobile communications devices affect socio-economic development.

She is a freelance researcher, formerly a Research Fellow in the Department of Management Science at the University of Strathclyde Business School. Prior to that, she worked with the Association for Progressive Communications, as Africa Policy officer, and as a lecturer in the Institute for Development Policy Management at the University of Manchester. She got her PhD from the University of Strathclyde, U.K. in 2006 following research into telecommunications and the structure of economic organisations, focusing in particular on the textile sector in Nigeria.

I met Abi several years ago when I lived in Boston. She was in town to attend Harvard Business School's African Business Club annual conference. We hit off and I was impressed by the fact that she was a doctoral student at the time - particularly in a field that I shared an interest. At the time I saw my future in research and possibly academia. Although many of my colleagues at Education Development Center in Newton, MA did not have PhDs, I saw the degree as one way to move more firmly in that direction.

Abi encouraged me to go for it, although she didn't shy away from sharing the challenges of doctoral studies, like the isolation students feel sometimes and the frustration when your work is not gong well. Notwithstanding, she bubbled with enthusiasm for her work, while appearing to have a vest for life outside of school.

So while Abi is not an engineer or a programmer or working in one of the more technical aspects of computing and information technology, like Nancy Hafkin she is educating and informing the world, through her research and writing, about how technology can make our lives better.

Abi is now one of the advisory board members for the Women's Technology Empowerment Centre - W.TEC, which I am personally so thrilled about, and has so generously shared of her time and expertise. Although I have not (yet!) embarked on a PhD, she certainly filled me with encouragement that I could do it. I will think about how it fits in with my life plans, but in the meantime, through W.TEC, research is part of my work now.

Learn more about Ada Lovelace Day: http://findingada.com.