DataFest Africa is an annual event that celebrates data science and its ever-evolving impact on the African continent. The conference brings together stakeholders from various sectors and backgrounds, such as government, civil society, academia, students, and private industry experts, to connect, learn, and collaborate on innovative data-driven solutions. The 2023 edition of DataFest Africa was held in Nairobi, Kenya, from 12th to 13th July, under the theme: “Turning the Data Tables: No Gender Equality in Tech AI without Data Equality.” The conference focused on understanding and addressing the need to promote intersectionality of gender and data, and how data affects women and girls from data scientists to data users. The conference was attended by our own Arnold Lutaaya a health rights Activist, lawyer and digital health rights expert.
The main objectives of the conference were to:
- Raise awareness and knowledge on the gender dimensions of data science and AI, and the opportunities and challenges they present for advancing gender equality and women’s empowerment in Africa.
- Showcase best practices and innovative solutions that use data science and AI to address gender issues and gaps in various domains, such as health, education, agriculture, governance, security, and entrepreneurship.
- Strengthen the network and collaboration among data science and AI stakeholders in Africa, especially women and girls, and foster cross-sectoral and cross-regional partnerships for learning and action.
- Influence policy and decision making on data science and AI in Africa, by providing evidence-based recommendations and advocacy messages that reflect the gender perspectives and needs of the continent.
The conference was hosted in a hybrid format, combining online and in-person participation. The conference used a variety of methods and tools to engage the participants, such as keynote speeches, panel discussions, workshops, hackathons, exhibitions, networking sessions, social media campaigns, and online platforms.
The conference was attended by over 50 participants from countries across Africa and beyond.The conference featured more than 20 speakers and facilitators from diverse backgrounds and expertise, including government officials, civil society leaders, academics, researchers, entrepreneurs, data scientists, AI experts, journalists, activists, and students. The conference also showcased more than 10 projects and initiatives that use data science and AI to address gender issues and gaps in various domains. The conference generated rich and insightful discussions on the gender dimensions of data science and AI in Africa, such as:
- The importance of ensuring that data is collected, analyzed, used, and shared in a way that is inclusive, representative, accurate, transparent, ethical, and respectful of the rights and dignity of women and girls.
- The need to increase the participation and leadership of women and girls in data science and AI fields, by providing them with access to education, training, mentorship, resources, opportunities, recognition, and support.
- The potential of data science and AI to empower women and girls to improve their lives and livelihoods, by enhancing their access to information, services, markets, finance, decision making, and justice.
- The challenges of data science and AI to protect the privacy, security, safety, and well-being of women and girls, by preventing and addressing the risks of misuse, abuse, bias, discrimination, harassment, and violence.
The conference was a successful and impactful event that achieved its objectives and contributed to the vision of DataFest Africa: to create a vibrant and inclusive data science and AI community in Africa. The conference provided a platform for knowledge sharing and exchanging among diverse stakeholders on a timely and relevant topic of gender and data. The conference also produced valuable inputs for policy advocacy and dialogue with policy makers and decision makers on developing regulations and policy on data science and AI in Africa that are gender-responsive and human rights-based. The conference report will be disseminated to all participants and relevant stakeholders for feedback and follow-up actions.