dorothu00e9e-danedjo-fouba
Business Management

Cameroon: Dorothée Danedjo Fouba on IT, language & women

Dorothée Danedjo Fouba is an award-winning multimedia journalist, media educator, engineer and blogger working in the IT sector. We chat about her numerous achievements and get her views on the local tech scene and potential opportunities for women in the field.

As a community and capacity building manager, you train women engineers at Ingeneris. Can you elaborate on this, and in your opinion, how accessible are mentoring opportunities for Cameroonian women in ICT and stem fields?
Firstly, I don't train women exclusively for Ingeneris. I plan to organise workshops in Cameroon every year for women in STEM and also for women and people in multimedia journalism and digital communication. During the past years I was focused on building informational tools for multimedia journalism as well as traditional ways of communication. Leadership and innovation were also approached during my presentations and open workshops.

In 2014, you participated in TechWomen (an initiative which pairs emerging women leaders in STEM fields from Africa and the Middle East with their professional counterparts in the United States for a professional mentorship) how beneficial was the experience to you?
The TechWomen program is amazing. I was hosted by Mozilla Corporation in Silicon Valley for five weeks during the program. [While I was there] I worked there on [a] Mozilla Community based engagement strategy with my professional mentor Larissa Brown Shapiro. I also wrote a little for The Open Standard, an open source platform for bloggers and digital Journalist from Mozilla.

I learned a lot on how to build digital toolkits on Mozilla TechMaker and Open Badge. Before going to Mozilla I only knew about Firefox and Thunderbird. I had this opportunity to have my two mentors in the same company and I learned from cultural trips and visits how Mozillians work when they have a marketing campaign. Since I came back I am working on launching Mozilla Cameroon which should help Cameroonians become more comfortable with Mozilla products.

You blog about ICT, and your blog dorotheedanedjo.com, has won four international awards for your work in ICT (Best African ICT Blog 2012 & 2013 and African FOSS Reporter Award in 2012 and in 2010 as a Finalist). In your opinion, what accounts for the rarity of ICT and data journalism blogs in Cameroon?
I think that the rarity of IT or data journalism blogs in Africa is due to the hard work and maintenance implications that come with it. Managing a professional blog is more difficult than managing an ordinary blog. You need to be focused on your theme, to get proof on everything you post and to have a solid background and data on your subject. Ordinary bloggers prefer commentary over facts but in a professional blog you are supposed to give facts, to do data investigation and to be focused.

In 2013, ActivSpaces worked with over 10 start-ups in Buea alone. What in your opinion accounts for the increase in tech startups since 2011, as well as the uneven geographical distribution of the startup eco system?
I can't say that it's because of Activspaces alone that we now have some important IT startups in Cameroon. I am opposed to any kind of discrimination. When you are interviewed by an English-speaking journalist you are asked about blogs/projects which have a great exposure in the Anglophone part of the country, and when you are in Francophone part you will be asked on just French speaking startups. It´s bad for our image and the eco system.

You need to know that in 2009, the first Barcamp Cameroon acted like a trigger for a lot of young innovators in Cameroon. People specialized themselves and began thinking about building new things, new kinds of entrepreneurship, and new business models for their existing projects. I think that it's the real explanation of this startup boom. You can [also] add to that the increase in the use of digital tools and social media has helped Cameroonians to be connected.

Your project for the African Story Challenge 2014, focuses on an interactive analysis of crowd funding in Africa. Can you please shed more light on this?
My article entitled "Crowdfunding: The New Gold Mine of Web 2.0 in Africa" is a data story investigation with computer graphics, data visualization, data mapping and podcasts as well as interactive videos. As you said, I produced it for the African Story Challenge, Business and Technology Cycle to inform people that there is a kind of project-funding in which Africans succeed, especially as far as web and IT projects are concerned. The article can help young people get tips on crowdfunding, how it works, and what successful web projects are well known in Africa. I hope that my data investigation will convince not just online readers, but also the jury of the competition.

What, in your opinion, would account for the increase in Cameroonian ventures/startups funded solely via crowd funding in recent years?
In Cameroon, I can say that young web or IT startups have a lot of difficulties to get funds from traditional systems like banks. Their knowledge of social media and digital communication could help them in case of crowd funding campaign if they have a good project with a good business plan and budget. These could also help them run up startups.

During the recent Bar Camp in Cameroon, there was some talk of matic.edu, a project you are working on. Could you please tell us about it?
Matic.edu will be a multimedia teaching platform on digital tools and tutorials for journalists, communicators and young startups who want to specialize their communications.

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Dzekashu MacViban

Dzekashu MacViban is a freelance journalist and has written for the Ann Arbor Review of Books, Fashizblack, Goethe.de, and PalaPala among others.

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