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Charmaine Houvet: Harmonising and uplifting

Charmaine Houvet, public policy director Africa at Cisco Systems, is an IT Personality 2018 finalist.

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Charmaine Houvet, public policy director Africa at Cisco Systems.
Charmaine Houvet, public policy director Africa at Cisco Systems.

Charmaine Houvet, public policy director Africa at Cisco Systems, is passionate about the transformation of the ICT sector, and in particularly the role of women in the sector.

She joined Cisco in March 2016 with several years' experience at a senior executive level at high-profile IT organisations, including SITA and Telkom.

She serves on the advisory board of Girlcodeza, an initiative that aims to empower young girls and women through technology by teaching them how to write code. In addition, Houvet recently founded Afriel, a non-profit that mentors young professionals with the goal of retaining women in the ICT sector.

A few months ago, she became involved in the Global Broadband Plan for Refugees Project. It's aimed at putting together an actionable plan for refugees and asylum seekers when they start coming into various countries. She says in terms of shelter, water and food, those needs are already met, but one area that is lacking is technology. "We needed to add the technology element. Currently, refugees have no means of letting their families know they are safe, or where they are located. We have started a project to identify partners and collaborators, from a government, partners, and host country perspective, and put together a roadmap. We put the proposal to the World Bank in October."

Another 'pet project' Houvet is involved in revolves around harmonising all the disparate 4th Industrial Revolution (4IR) efforts in South Africa.

"I noticed that we are inundated with hackathons and workshops, and everyone seems to be launching their own innovation hub. There is so much noise, but nothing was being done to track all these initiatives in terms of impact. I approached the (telecommunications) ministry, and wrote a concept paper on harmonising these efforts. They loved it, and from 24 October, there is now an industry-wide programme to do exactly this."

Other finalists

Brett St Clair: A non-traditional approach to technology
James Grcic: Inspire, innovate, improve
Nico Steyn: A beautiful journey
Quintus Moolman: The art of the possible
Teddy Daka: Advancing humanity through technology

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