Ada Lovelace Day: Celebrating Women in IT

When Suw Charman-Anderson asked me to support her pledge to blog on 24 March about women in IT I admire, in the name of Ada Lovelace, the first real programmer, my only concern was narrowing the field of candidates down.  And now the day of the pledge has arrived, I have decided simply not to focus on one woman, because there are three women (at least) that I feel are particularly deserving of Suw’s objective – to highlight the achievements of (partly) unsung heroes of technology.  Each of the women I’ve selected I admire because they have made pioneering efforts in their areas of expertise.  Those women are Debra Polson, Katz Kiely and Josie Fraser.

Deb Polson is the Managing Director of newish media, and describes herself as a designer and curator of mobile interactive media works.  Deb’s SCOOT game is a location based game for mobile or cell phones, which brings together families in real places, and charges them with solving an adventure where participants have to collect clues from physical landmarks and cultural institutions to save the world from an invasion of carnies. And she does all this using simple SMS.  Running regular SCOOT sessions since 2004, Deb recognised very early that trying to retrofit mobile technologies to existing curriculum in education was flawed, because it didn’t acknowledge how people interacted naturally with mobile media.  Since SCOOT, Deb has created a series of other mobile tools, including MiLK, which she launched last year as a tool for school students to create their own games on any subject, in order to challenge each other in learning. Deb has stretched the understanding of mobile interactivity for educational as well as orientation/induction purposes in a manner which is now recognised in technology education markets around the world as groundbreaking. And she deserves much wider recognition, because her mobile experiences have application in so many contexts – not just in education but in business, cultural heritage, and governance.  I’ve been proud to work with Deb before and would be more than willing to work with her again.  She’s a wonderfully creative, insightful and loads of fun, and I admire her immensely.

Katz Kiely is the Founding Director of Just-b. Productions, an organisation that commissions interactive projects and assists organisations in taking an idea from concept stage to execution, by connecting ideas people with designers, programmers, producers, business managers and investors.  Katz’s bTWEEN series is designed to bring together some of the most influential decision makers in creative digital media investment with the best independent producers from all over the UK. Her objective is to foster creative development and close the cavernous gap between digital media specialists and creative enterprises, and because she is not limited by delivery platforms or specific institutional seeding initiatives, she is achieving what amounts to an enormous public service to the UK creative economy. She’s also branching out to Asia, and her connections with the global creative media community are facilitating impressive new projects there too.  Katz deserves enormous credit for her foresight in understanding the need for a facilitative approach to fostering creative interactive enterpises.  She understands that it’s not just about building technologies and prototypes, but about creating value. I admire her tremendously.

Josie Fraser is a social and educational technologist who has worked extensively in the use of technologies for facilitating social participation.  She has developed pioneering research in Web 2.0 technologies for educational contexts and has advised on national policy development for technology and assessment.  Josie was awarded ‘Individual Learning Technologist of the Year’ in September 2008 by the Association for Learning Technology UK, but while this was based on her work in learning technology, she deserves much wider recognition, because her publications and research findings are concise, accessible and relevant to a vast array of social contexts.  Josie is passionate about the democratising aspects of emergent technologies and she is a compelling speaker and facilitator of international networks.  Once again, I admire her immensely.

Of course, these are just three of the many women I admire in technology.  I want to add a special mention of Jemima Gibbons, too, whose work in innovation consultation through her company Interactive KnowHow has contributed toward her forthcoming book based on interviews and insights from some of the biggest names in Web 2.0 businesses across the world.  It’s going to be a great book, and admire Jemima so much for her work.

Oh I could go on and on.  It’s fantastic to be able to appreciate just some of the great achievements of women in technology.  Thanks to Suw for setting the challenge, and to all those women I meet every day who inspire me in the technology sector.

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