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Africans win Google scholarships

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Two UCT students have been awarded the Google Anita Borg Memorial Scholarships for 2012.

Joyce Mwangama, a doctoral candidate in electrical engineering, and Maletsabisa Molapo, a master’s student in computer science, were named among the 70 recipients from universities in Africa, Canada, the Middle East and the US.

Google established the scholarship in 2004 to honour the legacy of the late technological pioneer, Dr Anita Borg, who died in 2003.

The scholarship is open to female university students in technical fields such as computer science or computer engineering who have demonstrated academic excellence and leadership potential.

The Anita Borg scholars each received a €7 000.00 scholarship and an invitation to a networking retreat at Google’s offices in Zurich, Switzerland, in June.

During the application process, students had to submit their CVs and answer essay type questions. In the essays, students had to write about their leadership journeys and how they have contributed to the advancement of technology in their communities, including the description of the technical community projects they have been involved in.

Joyce Mwangama, born in Tanzania, started her undergraduate studies at UCT in 2005. Apart from her academic success, she also spent time working as a researcher assistant, mentor and teaching assistant within the electrical engineering department.

She has been an active volunteer for the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers), where her activities include overseeing student activities in South African universities and promoting engineering and science to students in high schools in Africa. She also helps promote women in engineering activities, and community outreach projects in Cape Town and surrounding areas.

Her current work revolves around emerging technologies for next generation mobile broadband networks.

Lesotho-born Maletsabisa Molapo came to UCT on a Mandela Rhodes Scholarship in 2011. Prior to that, she completed her Bachelor of Engineering degree at the National University of Limpopo.

Back home she started an association Women and Technology which promoted computer studies in high school, inspiring girls in high schools to aspire to a career in computing and encouraging a culture of academic and professional excellence among female technologists in Lesotho.

Her current work centres around a project in Sierra Lone and Lesotho where women in rural villages are trained via video technology on phones to become primary care health care workers.