Sylvia Jebet: Gen Z engineer aiming to bridge the gap between tech and agriculture

Growing up, Sylvia Jebet wanted to be a teacher. She loved maths and admits she also loved science and sharing knowledge, but she never saw herself in telecommunications engineering.

The 25-year-old, who now works as developer relations associate and women in tech lead Africa at Africa’s Talking, a technology company in Kenya. When NTV caught up with her in Shanghai, China, where she had just completed Huawei’s Seeds for Future programme, she said she hoped to use her knowledge of technology and key lessons from the programme to help improve agriculture in Uasin Gishu.

Before joining Africa’s Talking, she studied Telecommunications and Information Engineering at the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT), graduating in 2022.

“At the time we were about 10 ladies in class, out of an opening class of 60 students. We graduated at about 41 students,” Jebet told NTV and Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2024 in Shanghai, China.

Her love of technology was fuelled by the demand for technology she saw in her home and the devices she interacted with on a daily basis.

Perhaps this is what got her into the Huawei Seeds for the Future program, a hands-on training program that exposes tech talent to real world solutions. She is the only lady among five students Kenyans picked to participate in the program. The program targets Africans in the Sub-Saharan region with 18,000 of them now trained in tech and practical skills. Huawei targets to tap another 150,000 students across Sub-Sahara Africa.

“We got to learn about artificial intelligence from a country that is far ahead in terms of technology and saw real-time applications of these technologies here in China. We were stationed in Beijing,” Jebet revealed.

“There was a bit of telecoms, networking and other systems and how they are able to communicate with each other literally. Then that aspect which we’ve been able to touch on of 5G, incorporates a lot of networking and cloud technology was big too in our lessons. So, there was a lot of learning apart from the calculus I learnt in my telecoms class but now this was a real application of the knowledge we acquired.”

The cohort learning period lasts a year, Sylvia was in the 2020 group, and this short immersion in China takes a week. Getting feted and going through her convocation at a global tech event like MWC is a major fete for her as a woman in tech.

Armed with her knowledge from the Huawei program, she now wants to apply it in her backyard in Uasin Gishu with the aim to deploy tech to support production of agricultural produce to help alleviate among key issues, address the perennial post-harvest losses by fully mechanising the whole agricultural process.

“Being in China has shown me how we can effectively mechanize our farming back at home. I have learnt how we can do vertical farming structures like hydroponic farming and green housing with key monitoring points like soil pH, soil sciences, knowing the right moisture content for production, and manage crop production end to end,” she explained.

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