Discovering my journey in the ICT field

Three girls showcasing their digital repository site at an exhibit.

My name is Pertunia Mojapelo and I am a 22-year-old girl from Johannesburg, South Africa. I recently completed my degree in BIS (Information Science), which is the study of the information process from its analysis collection, retrieval to its end-point of dissemination. My degree was focused on the ICT service sector or industry.

The reason why I chose to be in this sector is because I have always wanted to make life easier for people in various contexts - ranging from health to business and to education - issues that I saw people struggle with in my community. We had poor health facilities - which are currently being improved). People only run small businesses with no potential growth. Schools in the surrounding area did not have access to computers and broadband.

A key factor in resolving challenges like the ones in my community is access to relevant information which is accurate and timely with no cost. Access to information can help people solve problems and it also facilitates innovation. For me, being in this sector makes it possible to create or develop platforms that will enable such access and connection globally.

During my high school days, the people around me did not support the idea of me pursuing my studies in this field mainly because there was a stereotype that technology is for men. Their argument was that developing a certain platform or technology is time consuming (a day-and-night effort) and a lot of thinking is required and, as a result, it is not suitable for a woman – especially when she reaches the stage when she is starting a family and more of her time and concentration will be on the children. It was therefore very challenging for me to go and study in the ICT field because of lack of support and knowledge in my surroundings. Due to the stereotype, I described, I thought that I could not go ahead and follow the ICT route because it would be too hectic for me as a woman and I would not be able to handle the pressure. For a moment I considered studying something in the health care discipline instead.

During my second year in high school (Grade 9) the TechnoGirl program came to our school looking for girls who wanted to pursue careers in Science and Technology. Only two girls were chosen – myself and one other girl. TechnoGirl is a mentorship program that identifies girls from disadvantaged backgrounds and places them in job shadowing in various companies enabling them to gain further understanding of certain careers in Science and Technology. It even goes further by involving the girls in social activities like celebrations for Women’s Day – which is a public holiday in South Africa.

During the school holidays for my job shadowing I was placed in a health-related job and one of the things we were taught was how to test for breast cancer. From there I realised that if this kind of information can be made available online we could save a lot of lives as not all people have health facilities close to them, and we could also educate people on the effects, treatment, signs and symptoms and how to go about testing for it. From this programme I was inspired to go study a course in the ICT sector.

I then applied for BIS (information Science) at the University of Pretoria. My first year of study made me fall in love with the course as I was exposed to new technology platforms used in the course. I realised that this is where I belong and through hard work, persistence and belief, I can get through it. I am grateful to God and the support from my family. The TechnoGirl program was always there to follow up on my progress and any help that I could need.

From all that I have been through, one thing I learned is that you need to be courageous in order to rise against all odds and most importantly to believe in yourself. Never limit yourself - as a woman or man. If you wish to pursue a career In ICT, go for it - the technology field is your oyster.

South Africa