Get this stuff out of my head.

Ada Lovelace Day: Mary Lou Jepsen

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I signed up to Suw Charman-Anderson’s Ada Lovelace Day pledge quite a while ago and ever since I have been trying to work out who I should blog about. You see the brief is to pick a woman in technology that I admire and blog about them to try and provide more women with the role-models, the inspirational figures that they are able to related to, that will encourage them to work with and in technology. While thinking about why it is that I have so few women in my list of technologists I admire, I recalled how I was first introduced to probably the most influential women in technology ever, Ada Lovelace.  During my first year of my Electronic and Control Systems Engineering degree, I took a course on programming.  Early in this course the lecturer was discussing (very briefly) the general concept of strong typing in languages for embedded systems and mentioned ADA, the language developed for the US DoD.  With glee, he told his audience of impressionable young engineers (a small percentage of who were women) that ADA was named after Ada Lovelace, Charles Babbage’s mistress. And with that dismissal of the significance of inventing the concept of programming, my lecturer gave a slamming indictment of the perception the contribution women have made to our industry. So I will do all I can do to counter this perception and let women know that our industry welcomes their participation and I look forward to being inspired by them in future. Now, I know many women technologists, I have worked with some outstanding women over my years and while I have respect for their knowledge, skills and endeavour, I don’t think I can claim any of them to be my heroine.  To admire these women just on the grounds of their gender would be patronising and demeaning. I also know of a few women who are industry leaders and influencers, but  I have to confess to being more interested in the things that they do rather than who they are.  Among the few women’s names that have been associated with things that have been inspiring enough for me to research the person behind them is Mary Lou Jepsen. What I know about Mary Lou Jepsen can be found out from her page on Wikipedia, but her dedication to a project such as One Laptop Per Child, must surely deserve admiration.  The OLPC vision is:
To create educational opportunities for the world’s poorest children by providing each child with a rugged, low-cost, low-power, connected laptop with content and software designed for collaborative, joyful, self-empowered learning. When children have access to this type of tool they get engaged in their own education. They learn, share, create, and collaborate. They become connected to each other, to the world and to a brighter future.
This must be one of the most important technology projects that could be undertaken in a World where the divide between the connected and the non-connected is widening and being connected brings both the opportunity for self-fulfilment and economic independence.  Access to information allows people to educate themselves in the absence of anybody to teach themselves, to trade in a renewable resource that they have in abundance, their intelligence, and to add their contribution to the entire world of understanding and knowledge. Mary Lou Jepsen, was the Chief Architect and driving force behind the OLPC project and was pivotal in getting numerous large corporates to participate in it.  Without her, the World would be a poorer and less equal one.