Technology is fast becoming the driving force for keeping teams connected when they can’t be physically in the same room. As leaders begin to consider a post-pandemic future, key takeaways like virtual conferences and events look set to transform the way we will interact moving forward.
Womanomics Africa is one organisation determined to use technology to its advantage.
“It’s always an honour to curate conversations that matter and to see the evidence of the convening power of women,” wrote Isa Rehema in a recent LinkedIn post after speaking to a group on “leveraging technology and networks for business resilience.”
Co-founded by Isa and Lebo Biko in 2019, the organisation has dedicated itself to finding solutions that ensure women have a more meaningful role in African Economies. Since inception, their mission has been to connect businesswomen to insights and opportunities by providing a strong and effective ecosystem.
“Like many businesses in the last year, we have been evaluating technology in the context of what we need, where to find it and how to engage with it as a business and as a solution for a broader ecosystem,” shared Womanomics Africa on their social media platforms back in May.
The following month, the non-profit unveiled their solution by launching their very own virtual campus. Powered by Virtuworx, the Womanomics Africa Virtual Campus offers a 3D ecosystem expertly designed using technology originally developed for advanced gaming.
The purpose behind the move is to give women around the globe the opportunity to connect, interact and work together, with the common goal of building a better future. Originally piloted as a way to host the organisation’s TEDxLytteltonWomen, the world’s first virtual TEDx event, event last November, Womanomics further engaged with The Virtulab, the UK-based team behind Virtuworx, to create an environment that would be accessible 24/7.
Using the latest in digital technology, The Virtulab was able to custom build a platform that incorporates exhibition halls with individual stalls, as well as chill out lounges, auditoriums, meeting rooms and galleries. Virtual attendees are able to move around freely using their own custom avatar, just as they would in real life.
“The TEDxLytteltonWomen event was a great opportunity to show the team at Womanomics Africa what we could do and how we could bring them an even bigger audience. In fact, we’re proud that the majority of our QA/QC, Onboarding and Customer Support teams are women, which aligns with the mission of Womanomics,” explains David Cummins, Executive Director of The Virtulab.
The new Campus became the official platform for UN Women South Africa Generation Equality Forum experiences, playing an important role in sharing information and rebroadcasts from the 2021 Generation Equality Forum in Paris.
Currently, it’s hosting live events and activities that specifically speak to “what next,” and remains a destination to watch rebroadcasts of Commitments to Equality communicated by leaders of nations around the world including the President of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa.
A virtual campus geared towards women like this, is one way the UN hopes to close the digital gender divide. In 2019 research found that only 48 percent of women used the Internet, compared to 58 percent of men, with the gender gap ranging from 3 percent in developed countries to 43 percent in LDCs. A problem the UN concluded “is thwarting opportunities and risks, exacerbating inequalities between men and women.”
For The Virtulab, the Womanomics Africa Virtual Campus is just one of many projects they are powering. Originally conceived as an inhouse productivity solution, David Cummins and his team recognised the potential of the technology they were internally harnessing at the beginning of 2020. As the world began to shut down and work went remote, the need for a way to meaningfully connect soon became apparent and Virtuworx developed into the ideal solution.
The proprietary digital platform can be used in a variety of ways. From events and conferences to meetings, educational and training sessions, to even office environments, Virtuworx can be customised to a client’s specifications to make a truly unique experience.
But as companies begin to slowly return to the office, will virtual environments still have an appeal? David Cummins believes we are only at the beginning of the digital technology realm and says “hybrid” working models will be what ultimately power the future.
“We definitely see hybrid events as the way forward. The last year proved to many that remote work and play are possible. You just need the right type of digitalisation to ensure connections and value are added. Companies will see the benefits in opening up their events to a larger market while also being able to decrease their carbon footprint,” says Cummins.
For the team at Womanomics Africa the push to digitalisation presents the opportunity to reach a wider audience and will hopefully help lead to better opportunities for digital inclusion, especially for more women in Africa. Companies, like The Virtulab will be key to bridging these gaps in the future as digital technology looks set to power emerging markets.