Ms. Agang Ditlhogo is the co-founder of the Clicking Generation, a social enterprise teaching ICT skills to kids between 6 years to 18 years of age. She is a computer scientist with a vision to use ICT as a tool for development in Africa. She is also an alumni of the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) and Tony Elemelu Foundation Entrepreneurship Program. Here is her journey as an entrepreneur.
Question: How did you become a social techpreneur?
Agang: I have always been fascinated with machinery and moving parts. So when I was introduced to computing in senior school, it became a new fascination. The possibility of it all! I had never interacted with computers before then. I wanted to take it apart, what was inside it? That grew to a passion, which I followed up by studying Computer Science at University, and majored in Information Systems. I really enjoyed the course and I remember thinking ‘What if I had been exposed to computers earlier?’ So, after graduation in 2011, Tsaone Gaborone (my co-founder) and I started The Clicking Generation, which is an initiative to expose kids to computing at an early age. Our end vision is to eventually have creators of relevant e-content. We want these kids to use these skills to provide solutions for the social problems which we have locally. Our target group is kids as young as 6 and 18 years old.
Question: How did you get things in place for the Clicking Generation?
Agang: We entered an entrepreneurship competition locally and won a seed grant which we used to acquire the computers, software, licences and pay for overheads. To get kids to participate, we approached parents and guardians through PTA meetings. Our first class was at the SOS centre in Gaborone, where we had 30 kids coming in after school and weekend. We, then, realized that we would need levels of learning from introductory to intermediate to advanced. So we had to go into curriculum development. Kids love to explore and there is no fear around it. It is amazing how fast they progress depending on their abilities. It is fascinating and fulfilling to see these minds exploring and navigating. We try to incorporate their curriculum in there, like using a calculator in the computer, typing out assignments, just to make it fun and relevant to what they do in school.
Question: How do you keep the activities of the Clicking Generation running?
Agang: Apart from the two founders, we have 2 full time staff based in Maun and trainers who are volunteers. The members of the Google Developer Group, Gaborone have been very helpful as volunteers, making sure that the programs even run when I am not there. We also use social media as a tool to get our work out there and we have been able to reach out to places beyond Botswana. For example, we, recently, partnered with Africa Code Week and the United Nations Fund for Population Activities(UNFPA) through our social networks.
Question: What challenges have you encountered in starting “The Clicking Generation”?
Agang: Imagine this, two people out of computer science, with no idea what a balance sheet is, or anything financial. We were clueless. We had to go back to school. We got into this foundation course that taught us all these things, about finances, your money, keeping records of what you are doing. The other thing is sustainability. As many entrepreneurs will tell you, there are really tough days and unpleasant moments in terms of keeping the business running. But it is all about perseverance. We have different partners who are always willing to support us because they appreciate the work that we do. We try to balance between being profit making and serving the community, which is helpful when looking for funding to run the enterprise. Overall, It is doing what you love and knowing that there is so much bestowed upon you that you cant afford to fail.
“Overall, it is doing what you love and knowing that there is so much bestowed upon you that you cant afford to fail!”
Question: What three things would you advice any upcoming techpreneur on how to stay in business?
Agang: One, Love for what you do you. Be in it for more than just the enterprise. When you love what you do, your effort and passion will be directed to it. I am a great believer for destiny as well. When you are destined for something, it will be yours despite the challenges. Two: Be realistic. Understand and accept the business environment and adapt when necessary. Three, Know the products and services that you offer. There is something about selling a product genuinely. Your passion shows while you sell your product. Be genuine about it and the rest will follow.
Question: Do you believe that the relationships you create have helped you push your vision for the clicking generation forward?
Agang: Definitely. When I graduated, I started being active in ICT activities, going to the Ministry of Youth Offices, asking for opportunities or where I could be of help. That paid off because they invited me whenever there were forums that I could participate in. I think they read my authenticity. Through this, I got introduced to ITU and became a local ambassador for the innovation competition. The vision was to have young people creating relevant e-content that can help them in their communities. Afterwards, I got involved with the UN World Summit Award and became a reviewer for their competitions. Then I joined the Google Developer Group(GDG) where I started as a champion, encouraging people to explore Google technology. This had a lot of benefits. I am able to carry it forth to the next generation through the micro-grants that they give us. I can also easily approach them, whenever we have a campaign either for resources or promotional material. We recently had training at Old Naledi at the orphanage centers through the GDG.
Question: You have been engaged in leadership mentorship programs such as Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) and Tony Elemelu Foundation Entrepreneurship Programme. What one thing did you take home from these experiences?
Agang: “So that I may serve”. Leadership is about the people that you are serving and serving through them for them. That has really redefined my purpose. I was inspired by the other young Africans who are just doing amazing things in their space and it has been a wake-up call. Another things I realized we were lacking as the Clicking Generation is inclusion of people with different abilities and disabilities. We started out with one standard learner. We are, now, exploring how we can modify our programs to suit those with disabilities, like having a different shaped keyboard, or audio for the visually impaired.
“Leadership is about the people that you are serving and serving through them for them.”
Question: What advice would you give to women on partnership within a social enterprise?
Agang: My co-founder, Tsaone and I have directly opposite personalities and that is why we complement each other. I am the mouthpiece marketing part and she is more behind the scenes, taking care of business. We know and understand each other well in terms of abilities, capabilities and shortfalls and I think that is why we work so well together. Be careful if who you pick as a co-founder. You, also need to share a vision with your co-founder. Even if you don’t, you should work it out together and help each other understand the direction that you should take. The other very important thing is communication. As the vision changes with environment, circumstances, growth and abilities, articulation of certain things, it is important to communicate and make important decisions on partnerships and so on.
Question: Are there enough women in ICT?
Agang: Women in ICT are very few. At the university, the number of girls graduating is less than those who were admitted. Girls end up changing their career path. Then there is unemployment, which is tough for all graduates. So the number of women in ICT ends up staying low. The environment as well is an issue. I had a conversation with a gentleman and when I told him that I was in ICT training, he asked in surprise “ You can code?” He was genuinely surprised that I could code and the next question was “Can you code well?” As a woman, I take it as my responsibility to do more to get more girls into this field. There is a misconception that ICT is about can using a smartphone or a computer. At the core of it, ICT is about creation and about support. I am, currently, taking the role of an advocate for ICT, making ICT attractive, and making sure that the opportunities in IT are visible.
Question: You mentioned working to get more girls into ICT. Are you involved in mentorship?
Agang: I am, currently, mentoring 4 girls. We talk regularly and meet twice every semester. They also volunteer for some of our outreach programs. I want them to understand that whatever career they choose, it is up to them to find what their purpose is. Work at being better for others and for yourself, and you will fulfill your path of destiny. So it is both career and life mentorship.
Question: How do you balance your full time job with all the other social activities that you are involved in?
Agang: I have had to juggle a lot of things this year. First, I think it is my destiny. Most times it is easy because it is something that I love. At times though, I may want to sleep in on Saturday, but I remember the kids waiting for me at the center who I can’t disappoint! Another thing is grace. God is my ultimate strength. God has placed me in a position where I work with the most understanding people, who know my drive and support me. Sometimes it gets tough but when you do what you love, it comes so easily.
Question: Do you have any hobbies, with all these things that you do?
Agang: I read a lot of motivational books. My recent read was Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg. I also like to catch up with friends.