Microsoft invites young girls across the Middle East and Africa to enter an AI wonderland with these #stayathome workshops

Teenage girl engaging in online coursework from home

Science, technology, engineering and maths – also known as STEM subjects – have never been more important.

Research shows businesses across the Middle East and Africa are battling to acquire the digital skills they need, and yet, many countries across the region have a remarkably low number of STEM graduates who are women. For example, just 24 percent of students pursuing degrees in science and technology subjects in Tanzania are women. This number sits even lower at 18 percent in Uganda and 17 percent in Kenya. This all needs to change.

There are many reasons why women in MEA are less likely to pursue STEM careers, including a limited number of role models and gender biased norms that begin early in life. But according to UNESCO, another significant reason is a lack of information about opportunities in the tech sector. Students aren’t being given enough room to explore STEM subjects and the impact they can have on society.

If we can encourage more girls to pursue their interests in STEM, we can begin to close the gender gap while also increasing the amount of much-needed AI talent. All it takes is a spark of inspiration.

Alice envisions the future is a unique programme run by Microsoft, in partnership with Avanade and Accenture, which allows high school girls around the world to develop their understanding of Artificial Intelligence (AI) – the world’s leading technology in terms of its potential for building a better future.

Named after Alice’s inspirational and curiosity-driven adventures in Wonderland, participants are treated to workshops led by industry experts, in addition to receiving help from Microsoft, Avanade and Accenture mentors to develop their own projects, before pitching them to a panel of judges.

Ultimately, Alice envisions the future is an event that aims to close the gap in STEM fields, while giving girls the right tools to discover the possibilities that await them. Events like this help teach girls to trust their imagination, to believe in their ideas, and to show that there are no limits. At the same time, having different mentors helps them with design-lead thinking, as well as technical and business skills.

Prior to COVID-19 lockdowns, the event had taken place in Athens, Bucharest and Warsaw, as well as crossing the Atlantic to New York, Seattle, and San Francisco. While further events have since been put on hold, that doesn’t mean you still can’t get involved.

STEM adventures, at home

To ensure this popular initiative doesn’t lose momentum, Microsoft has moved the experience online, creating the Alice envisions the future, DigiGirlz AI Class. The platform provides access to a collection of tutorials, games and technological resources designed to equip you with the knowledge and the skills you need to apply this technology in real life.

If you have grand ideas about the future and would love to implement them one day, right here is a great place to start. No prior coding experience is required – only endless curiosity and determination!

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