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Former Vodacom exec wants gender parity in ICT sector

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Suraya Hamdulay, vice-president of regional strategy and engagement at 2U.
Suraya Hamdulay, vice-president of regional strategy and engagement at 2U.

Former Vodacom executive Suraya Hamdulay, who recently joined global edutech firm 2U, is looking to bring more women into technology, in her effort to drive gender parity in the sector.

Hamdulay, who joined 2U as vice-president of regional strategy and engagement, says she is committed to “embedding diversity in a meaningful way” and driving inclusion of women in the tech sector.

Among her responsibilities, Hamdulay will support the drive toward diversity, equity and inclusion, and foster belonging in the Southern African region of the business.

She was previously Vodacom Group’s executive for sustainability, and later had a stint at Telkom subsidiary BCX.

In an interview, Hamdulay tells ITWeb: “2U has a clear growth strategy for the local edtech sector and the company is firmly establishing its brand and operations locally.

“We currently employ upwards of 800 people in Cape Town and have more growth on the horizon. We are proud of the fact that more than half of our local workforce comprises women and people of diverse backgrounds. Globally, 2U has a focus on and commitment to transformation.”

2U plans to establish centres of excellence in Cape Town, where a large proportion of its staff is located, Hamdulay says.

“South Africa has highly-skilled talent in the tech space, so over the next few years, we're going to hire more people in this region who will service the rest of our global business. We are very deliberate about hiring locally and we want to play our part in stimulating the local skills and knowledge economy, as well as support the Western Cape’s digital economy ambitions.”

Hamdulay says 2U is looking to increase access to higher education by offering more affordable and open online courses. “We've also recently acquired edX, which is one of the world's largest digital education platforms.

“We want to support students at every stage of their careers, and our product offerings include short courses, certificates, bootcamps, undergraduate and postgraduate degree programmes in partnership with some of the world’s leading universities.

“I refer to our business as a social enterprise, because even though we are profit-driven, the mission of our business is about inclusive education. And it's about making sure we use the power of technology and online platforms to reach people who were previously unreachable.

“Because technology now enables one to take a Harvard course from your home, you don't have to leave your county or region; it makes higher education far more accessible.”

Research firm GlobalData says global edtech is now one of the fastest-growing areas, with revenue expected to reach $538.5 billion by 2030.

The company also notes edtech has become a magnet for investment and innovation in technologies such as artificial intelligence, cloud, virtual and augmented reality, and robotics.

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