Speaking at the 2023 Optical Networking and Communication Conference & Exhibition plenary session in San Diego, California, Patricia said, “What we should see in our scope of work is that we’re changing lives… touching lives by the very technology that we develop and the way we use it.”
During her plenary talk titled “Harnessing Digitalisation for Effective Social Change,” Patricia highlighted Super Care, a digital platform that has made a significant difference in the lives of people who are speech impaired or deaf. She shared how the Vodafone Ghana team employed sign language experts, trained some customer-facing employees, and introduced customised packages to help this vulnerable group stay connected.
She also talked about Instant Schools, a learning platform that connects thousands of teachers and students in Ghana to e-learning materials from the basic to the secondary level of education. Over 25,000 learners in Ghana are now connected and can engage with basic curriculum, whether at home or in school.
Another example Patricia highlighted was how technology is improving health outcomes for pregnant women in the region. Over 20% of pregnant women haemorrhage on their way to the hospital because of bad roads and lack of access to transport. In partnership with the governments in countries like Tanzania and Lesotho, women can now contact transport officers via USSD and get free transport to the hospital.
Highlighting some key issues standing in the way of digital connectivity in Africa, Patricia pointed to poor network coverage, low device penetration, low digital literacy, and a lack of relevant digital content. She emphasised the need for a deeper collaboration between governments and the private sector. “No one agency or company can address this problem. We must all work together to ensure that we leave no one behind,” she said.
Patricia also stressed that digitalisation efforts must consider the unique challenges that women and girls face, citing examples like Code-Like-A-Girl and Female Engineering Scholarship Scheme Programme, which both challenge gender stereotypes in STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics).
She concluded by calling on attendees to focus on using technology to make an impact and drive lasting change in society.
The Optical Networking and Communication Conference & Exhibition (OFC) is the largest global conference and exhibition for optical communications and networking professionals. The program is comprehensive — from research to the marketplace, from components to systems and networks and from technical sessions to the exhibition. OFC draws attendees from all corners of the globe to meet and greet, teach and learn, make connections, and move the industry forward. OFC 2023 took place between 5th and 9th March in San Diego, California, USA.