“When there is a will there is a way”
Betelhem Dessie was born in a neighborhood behind the Selasie Church in Harrar, Ethiopia twenty years ago and she currently lives in Addis Abeba, Ethiopia. Bethlehem is a Software Developer where her main work revolves around projects that involve development of software systems. She has seven patents, four patented projects as an individual and three in collaboration with other organizations. She has cofounded two projects, currently in transition to businesses, including iCog – Anyone Can Code and Solve IT. She started career started at the age of nine, where she often cites her father has been one of the biggest proponent of her ambition. She started her work on computers by working on her father’s computer in his tech shop in Harar, where she sold audio and video files.
She refined her skills in video-editing, computer maintenance, and installing cellphone software and by ten, Betelhem started coding in HTML and taught basic computer skills. Betelhem was employed as a developer for the government at the age of twelve by the Ethiopian Information Network Security Agency (INSA). So far, she has worked with government organizations such as INSA, Bahir Dar University and also private organizations like TECNO Mobile. Bethlehem connected with the organization she is working with when she was working with the then Ministry of Science and Technology, now MiNT, on setting up a summer camp and one of the activities was AI and Robotics. The working relationship blossomed from there. Her current work as project manager for iCog*- Anyone Can Code and as project advisor for Solve IT, is focused on working on both projects in partnership with iCog Labs. Solve IT was supported and initiated along with iCog by the U.S Embassy and is currently being supported by the Embassy and JICA. While iCog – ACC was initiated by Bethlehem in collaboration with iCog.
At the age of 20, Bethelehem currently works on iCog’s Anyone Can Code project focused on teaching young children from the age of 8- 18 and Solve IT which promotes creating local and innovative solutions for local problems. The aim of these projects is to equip young people in Africa with the 21st century skills, including skills that will be used in the work force in the next 5 – 10 years including coding, robotics, block chain genetic engineering etc. She gives back to her community by teaching what she knows in tech on various topics that cover different difficulty levels and age groups to children and the youth. She considers her role in equipping 20,000 children with coding skills and creating a platform for 5,000 entrepreneurs in Ethiopia through ACC and Solve IT campaigns and workshops to be her greatest accomplishment. Betelhem has also been named “the youngest pioneer in Ethiopia’s fast emerging tech scene” by CNN. Bethlehem likes to cook, bake and spend time with friends in her free time. She is grateful for the opportunity she has had when she was very young, including the support of her family which enabled her to do what she loves.
“What you throw comes back to you hard, don’t underestimate those who you scar.”
*iCog Labs is an AI and Robotics company based in Ethiopia famously known for the Sophia Robot, where part of the software for the Sophia Robot was developed.
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