ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia — Betelhem Dessie has emerged as one of the youngest tech pioneers in Ethiopia’s ‘Sheba Valley.’
The 19-years-old, is coordinating a number of nationwide programs run by robotics lab iCog, the Addis Ababa based artificial intelligence (AI) lab that was involved in developing the world famous Sophia the robot.
Betelhem Dessie, currently has four software programs copyrighted solely to her name – including an app developed for the Ethiopian government to map rivers used for irrigation.
She made use of the materials around her.
“On my 9th birthday I wanted to celebrate so I asked my father for money.” When her father said he didn’t have any to give her that day, Dessie took matters into her own hands.
“I got about 90 dollars – then I celebrated my birthday.”
iCog launched in 2013 and Ethiopia’s tech industry is set to take off even faster this year following the liberalization of the country’s economy under new Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.
Abiy who took office in April, has part privatized a number of state owned companies including telecoms provider Ethio Telecom. It’s a bid to hopefully pave the way for better internet access.