I recently learnt that the term for someone who works for Google is referred to internally as a “googler.” And Google on the continent has just given a very seriously awesome individual this unique moniker; Dr Shikoh Gitau.
Her claim to fame is a technology that that she helped develop called Ummeli that helps people find jobs and secure interviews. The relatively inexpensive application, which matches unemployed workers with employers in urgent need of their skills, has enormous implications for the labour force in regions where unemployment is high. Ummeli has been rolled out in South Africa and will hopefully be made available in other African countries.
Her Ummeli system now has 150,000 users, with the initial impact evaluation indicating that approximately 18% have found jobs and another 10% have secured interviews.
Gitau devised the technology solution in collaboration with staff at UCT’s Information and Communication Technologies for Development Centre (ICT4D). “I had experienced and seen so much poverty, and I knew deep inside me that I wanted to do something about it. I looked at various institutions for a graduate programme that would offer me both the social and the technology angles,” she says.
The University of Cape Town PhD graduate’s from Nakuru’s ground-breaking technology solution is not only changing the lives of many skilled workers who could not find employment, it has also landed her a job with Google in Africa.
She has since been appointed to Google’s User Experience Group in Africa. “Although I was initially hired for a position based in London, and then Zurich, I requested to be sent back home because I believe this is where I could have the most impact,” she says.
Based in Nairobi, Kenya, her role is to explore the ICT needs of different groups throughout Africa and emerging markets, and design appropriate systems so that Google can meet those needs.
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