Alyssa Ransbury is an Internet marketing nerd, community organiser, start-up enthusiast, and an advocate for access to education and the empowerment of women. She is currently engaged in a number of tech-related projects in Dhaka, Bangladesh, where she lives and works. Until recently, Alyssa served as the head of operations at Bangladesh’s first and largest online ad network and as an analyst at Inflection Ventures. She now works to support local websites, tech companies, and the Internet ecosystem as a whole. Avenue T chats with Alyssa about technology, women and a whole lot more.
As a woman in your position, how do you feel about the notion that men dominate the tech front?
To say that men “dominate tech” insinuates that men are somehow innately better with technology and have somehow “won out” over women. A more accurate phrase might be that men are in the majority in the technology industry as it stands today. This has more to do with access to opportunities, professional networks, and gender-based cultural expectations than innate technological prowess.
In five or 10 years, I do not think this question will even be relevant. Given the number of initiatives that have been taken by both the private and public sectors, women will be a growing proportion of the workforce in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) industries. I am excited to help more women and girls pursue their personal and professional interests in technology over the next few years.
If there was an opportunity to help everyone understand technology better, how would you go about it?
The Internet offers vast opportunities for anyone and everyone to understand technology better. It is possible to learn anything online, from how to code a website or mobile application to how to write a winning proposal for a technology competition. There is such a massive amount of information available online that simply gaining access can be a game changer.
Actively supporting programmes that increase access to the Internet, whether through free Internet hot spots or by increasing the number of computers in schools, can pay huge dividends in terms of developing an individual’s or community’s understanding of technology. My professional focus has been on helping people use the Internet more effectively via online marketplaces and advertising platforms.
We need to be more tech savvy on a macro level, at banks and schools, for instance. Any thoughts on how we can get there?
Organisations like bKash are already helping make technology a part of everyday life for people in Bangladesh. Once enough of the population starts to engage with technology on a daily basis - like paying for groceries or transferring funds digitally - it will be easier for institutions like banks and schools to introduce more complex innovations. They will have a ready audience that is willing and able to make effective use of new tools.
Any tips on how one can get on the technology train?
My advice is to take it one day at a time. Try something new online everyday, whether it’s signing up for your first YouTube account or creating a savings plan with an online tool.
On a personal level, how do you think technology can empower women?
Technology allows women to be active and productive wherever they are. It has allowed me to increase my social network, learn from professors on the other side of the world, dabble in entrepreneurship, and “see” my family, even though I am not at home.
- Fun facts -
What is your favourite way to unwind in Dhaka?
How would you describe your sense of style?
Pragmatic, comfortable, no-fuss, Bengali-American fusion. Oh, and Birkenstocks.
What is on your playlist right now?
Hero by Family of the Year and Kane by The Chainsmokers.
What is the best part about living in Dhaka?
Being part of a community that’s working every day to make tangible, positive, change.