DSAA offers people with disabilities the chance of training and a career in the IT sector
Abigail Dede Sackey has been paralysed since childhood, so she started school much later than other children. She learned by herself and discovered the IT sector. Digital Skills Accelerator Africa (DSAA) enabled her to acquire the necessary IT skills and now she wants to show other people with disabilities that there are opportunities available to them.
‘It's very difficult to secure a job as a person with disability living in Ghana,’ says Abigail Dede Sackey, a 28-year-old Ghanaian. Abigail’s own disability – her paralysis – prevented her from attending school for several years because she wasn’t sufficiently mobile. She grew up in the rural hinterland surrounding the Ghanaian capital Accra, where people have to travel long distances. Her parents could not afford private tutors and tried to teach Abigail themselves at home. It was not until she was eleven that she was able to walk well enough to go to school.
From then on, Abigail wanted to be independent, to determine her own life choices and to finance herself. Yet she knew that as a person with a disability, after she finished school she would face difficulties on the Ghanaian labour market, as any job that demanded much mobility would not be open to her. At school she had already come into contact with computers, which she used primarily to play her favourite music (Bob Marley and Tupac), but later she realised she could do a lot more with a computer – learning and working at home. ‘I think the ICT sector is a very good fit for persons with disabilities because you can get to work from anywhere.’
„All I need is a laptop and internet connection.“
Abigail Dede Sackey
DSAA opens up future prospects
Now Abigail had a plan, but no money to finance training in IT. In Ghana there were few training options for her, and those that existed were too expensive. She was not the only person with this problem: ‘A lot of Ghanaians actually have dreams of pursuing their education,’ she explains, ‘, but then because of financial constraints, we are unable to.’ A turning point for her was hearing about the DSAA programme. DSAA is a registered non-profit association of companies in the digital services sector, which share the common objective of inspiring, training and employing talented Africans in IT. It is supported by Invest for Jobs. The DSAA training programme is free of charge for the participants and one of its explicit aims is to promote women and people with disabilities in the IT sector – this was Abigail’s chance of professional development.
DSAA enabled Abigail to demonstrate her talent and learn all about programming languages and data science. Living outside Accra, she benefited from being able to attend the training course online instead of commuting to the city. Now she is a certified data scientist and works at the German-Ghanaian start-up getINNOtized, one of DSAA’s founding companies, where she evaluates large datasets for customers. She says, ‘The training enabled me to develop additional skill sets in data science, which actually made me a problem solver, and it has enabled me to secure a job for myself.’
Abigail says her energy comes from her two role-models. One of them is her father. ‘My dad taught me to believe in myself. And my dad made me believe that I was capable of doing anything I put my mind to.’ The other role-model was hip-hop artist Tupac Shakur, because he rapped about social problems and his music made her feel that she was not the only person going through difficult times. Today Abigail sees motivation from her father and the awareness of social inequality as incentives to keep going her own way.
With her DSAA certificate Abigail has not only found a job but also begun a Master’s course in information technology. Although she has a full-time job, she studies after work so that she can fulfil her dream of doing a doctorate; after her Master’s degree she wants to apply to do a PhD in policy-making, with a focus on innovation and technology. ‘I've always wanted to be a policy maker. And I'm confident that these additional skill that I have applied, would put me in a position to be able to solve problems in my community and implement intervention programs for vulnerable and marginalized people.’ She wants to apply data science, artificial intelligence and machine learning to existing data – about learning methods used by people with disabilities, for instance – to recognise patterns and thus to gain information that will feed into good policies. The ultimate result should be that more people with disabilities have the chance to use technology to develop their potential, to learn and to work.
For Abigail, DSAA opened up prospects in the IT sector that have now brought her a promising job and enabled her to study for a degree. Her energy and determination have launched her on the path to becoming a problem-solver, and one day she will be tackling not just IT challenges, but also social problems.