When I first heard about Afrotech festival, I was impressed with the idea. I’ve always been in the minority at tech conferences. Its been so common that I just don’t (try not to) think about it. Its very common for tech events to try and encourage more women to be involved but even with gender diversity its poor to bad. Calls for racial diversity tend to end up falling on slightly deaf ears. Its not always unwillingness but it does have a slight effect, and makes you think… should I be here?
In actual fact the only times I have been in a tech event where the dominate people weren’t white males has been the girl geekdinner events. For example last week Sunday I was a girl geek tea party with all women and myself, I felt comfortable enough and hopefully everybody else felt the same (there was no indication to suggest any issues).
Its very rare when I haven’t been in the minority, especially around tech. At Afrotech fest, for the first time I was in the racial majority although interestingly a minority in gender.
I was giving one of the two keynotes and I’ve posted the slides and thoughts in a previous post. The other keynote was given by Ade Adewunmi who talked about similar issue I brought up.
The festival ran over Friday & Saturday. It felt more like a unconference with clear tracks. The sessions were varied with topics ranging from An introduction to cryptocurrency to What the Matrix can teach us about Diversity & Inclusion. There were panels for example The Good and Evils of Machine Learning. All the sessions focused on a slightly different view, for example the machine learning panel included lot about algorithm bias and transparency. Issues which directly effect the lives of minorities.
Another great thing beyond just the make up of the people was the diversity of personal backgrounds. There were developers, artists, people working in law, etc, etc. There was also a youth track on Saturday afternoon (which I obviously didn’t attend) it was great to see young people wondering around like you see at Mozfest.
I was impressed with everything especially the 6 black female organisers and lots of helpers, who made everyone feel at home in Richmix. The festival was very welcoming to those not from the black community with everybody was respectful alongside the lines of the code of conduct. Its also the first time I’ve had to agree/sign my presentation and keynote will not break the code, something others should do.
I had a great time, learned a lot and even my non-technical sister took away something. The conversations I had were great and look forward to the next one.
Myself and Ade Adewunmi are on BBC Click briefly talking about Afrotech Festival.
Afrotech Fest is a two-day tech and digital festival in the UK by and for black people of African and Caribbean heritage. It explores the intersection of technology, the arts, history, news, activism and representation. In particular Afrotech Fest aims to provide a platform for people across a variety of backgrounds to imagine a future free of the present biases whether conscious or unconscious. Click talks to Ade Adewunmi and Ian Forrester about Afrotech.