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Blog Posts by Ann Mei Chang

Coding is not just for Guys and Geeks

by Ann Mei Chang, U.S. Department of State Senior Advisor for Women and Technology
October 4, 2012 - 11:32 AM

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As a twelve year old girl, I came across the Space Invaders video arcade game and was mesmerized by the relentless thump-thump of the advancing aliens, the satisfying sound effects, and the addictive simplicity of the game play.  Soon thereafter, I convinced my parents to buy my first computer, an Atari 400 with its awkward membrane keypad, and became entranced by the potential of building my own interactive experiences.  I set out to teach myself the BASIC programming language and learned how to make pixels move around the screen.  While I never developed a full-fledged video game, before I finished high school I went on to write a grading application for teachers at school, build a voice command interface demo at the local Army post, and teach at a computer summer camp.

After completing a Computer Science degree at Stanford University, I went on to work as a software engineer in Silicon Valley.  I found myself coding up algorithms and routines for this or that function within much bigger projects.  The analytical puzzles kept me challenged, but it was less than fully satisfying.  As part of a bigger team, I missed designing how the product would work, interacting with real users, and weighing which features were most important.  I became drawn to management positions that would give me this broader purview, solving real problems and designing complete solutions.  It is this tangible aspect of real world problem solving that I believe is key to engaging more girls and women (as well as boys and men) in technology -- make the work tangible and relevant.

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The Gender Gap in Mobile and Internet Access in the Developing World

by Ann Mei Chang, Department of State Senior Advisor for Women and Technology
July 23, 2012 - 02:38 PM

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We have seen evidence over and over again that investing in women and girls is one of the most direct and effective ways to produce economic and social progress.  We have also seen how information and communication technologies (or ICT) have accelerated the pace of change by introducing efficiencies, opening new markets, and creating technology-related jobs.  Now, imagine the tremendous possibilities that can arise from empowering women with ICT.  The promise is real, though there are a number of challenges to navigate.

One of the most challenging issues is gender inequity in the access to technology, whether that be a mobile phone or Internet connectivity.  Closing the gender gap presents an enormous opportunity for economic development.  The GSMA mWomen Program, launched by Secretary Clinton in October 2010, identified that women are 21% less likely than men to own a mobile phone in developing countries.  mWomen aims to halve that gap in the next three years.  The Internet is also out of reach for many women, who typically have more limited incomes and are unable to afford service costs, which can be prohibitively expensive in many low-income countries.  Certainly, without access to technology, women will not be able to take advantage of the many potential benefits technology can enable for their individual and family's livelihood, education, and well-being – as a consequence, their contributions to economic and social progress will not be as significant.

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