Afrocentric Theatre, Music, Culture and Business

Afrotech Festival 2019 Afrotech Festival 2019
Afrotech Festival 2019

Afrotech Fest 2019 is a ‘for us by us’ festival seeking to create intentional and alternative spaces within the tech scene. We debut, highlight and showcase speakers across different disciplines, experiences and backgrounds. The festival offers interactive events across multiple venue spaces, including talks, workshops. Ebonyonline.net caught up with the Afrotech Festival team member Debs to find out wonderful activities are in store for us this time around.


EOL: We’re looking forward to the Afrotech festival, are you?
DEB: Most certainly! Last year’s festival really was an achievement and we were delighted to have such a range of people attending and saying how much they took away from not just the talks, workshops, and installations, but also other attendees. They also reiterated something we’ve never questioned, that Afrotech Fest is needed.

With that information, we worked to make this year’s festival even bigger and worked harder to encourage submissions from first-time speakers so they can showcase their expertise. We’re impressed with the schedule, and we hope our attendees are too.

EOL: You said the Festival was a response to the underrepresentation of Black people in the tech industry, could explain more?
DEB: Quite often, when the expertise of black people in tech is called upon, it’s to talk about being black people in tech. Not the work they do on a daily basis or what they specialise in, but their experience. And whilst there is a lot to be said about being a black person in the tech industry, black people are able to explore more than this and this is something we want to highlight.

EOL: How did you decide what talks, workshops, installation to include in this exciting programme?
DEB: We held a call for submissions where we invited participants across a range of disciplines to submit their idea; they didn’t need to work in the tech industry and we actively welcomed submissions from those who have never spoken at conferences before even providing additional guidance when desired.

We really were spoilt for choice when it came to making our selections and there are so many submissions that would have been great additions to the programme. However, we had more great submissions than had space and chose the submissions that helped craft to a programme that appealed to all levels of experience and covered a wide range of topics.

EOL: Tell us some of the highlights that attendees should be looking out for?
DEB: It’s really difficult to say as there is just so much to look forward to!  As there are so many options and depending on what you’re interested in, you can really choose your own adventure.

EOL: Tell us about the international aspect of the festival?
DEB: As well as highlighting the great work that black people in the UK are doing in technology, we’re also welcoming participants from other parts of Europe and further afield.

EOL: How did you get into tech yourself?
DEB: I’ve had an interest in technology for a long time and living in London, I’ve been lucky to be able to attend a lot of events that furthered my interest and encouraged me to learn more. Through communities like codebar and Black Girl Tech, I had the chance to meet a lot of great people and explore how I could actually create a career in the industry.

I eventually completed a programming boot camp and now work as a software engineer but this likely wouldn’t be the case were it not for the people I met within London’s tech communities.

EOL: Why is it important for allowing those on low income etc to attend the event?
DEB: Tech events can be invaluable to those who work in the industry or are interested in technology generally. They provide a space to make new connections, learn new things, meet potential employers and for some, they can be a spark that lights an interest in working in tech as a whole.

However, the cost of attending a lot of tech conference is prohibitively expensive. The end result is that only those who are already well-off or who can have the cost covered by their employer are able to attend.

Something we really took away from last year’s event was just how inspired our attendees were to be in attendance. They enjoyed hearing from black people and their expertise and for many, it was the first event like this that they had attended.

We want anyone to be able to reap these benefits, regardless of their income. It’s because of this that we keep our ticket costs low, offer subsidised tickets and provided free tickets through our community partners.

EOL: Why is it important for Black people to get involved in future technology?
DEB: Technology is shaping our world and we need as many people involved in this as possible. When it comes to discussions about the role of AI in making life-changing decisions, online security and so many more areas, it is crucial that black people help shape these as the impact on our lives is unavoidable.

EOL: Finally, what do hope this festival and the huge online attention its receiving leads onto?
DEB: We want to demonstrate that black people in technology are experts in more than their own experiences.

As there will be such a cross-section of people attending in person or following Afrotech Fest online, we hope they find what they need; whether it’s learning more about a given area, being inspired to do something they’ve never thought to do, make professional connections or make techie friends.


Afrotech Festival, 12-14 April, Rich Mix, London E1 6LA, Visit www.afrotechfest.co.uk for tickets and information.


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