by Alison McConnell
VivaTech 2018 made an admirable effort to bring new and diverse voices to the stage, but it also illustrated just how far we have to go.
Back in May of last year, I had the privilege of attending the third edition of the French tech conference VivaTech in Paris. Billed as “the world’s rendezvous for startups and leaders,” the conference largely lived up to the hype.
Some 80,000 attendees hailing from over 100 countries descended on The City of Light to participate in workshops, witness product demonstrations, and listen to speeches delivered by tech luminaries ranging from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi to Ethereum Cofounder Joe Lubin.
French President Emmanuel Macron kicked off the proceedings with an engaging keynote address that outlined his vision for making technology a force for good. This begins, he argued, by committing to — and investing in — tech-centric education not just for those who have traditionally dominated the tech space, but for anyone and everyone who expresses interest in pursuing a career in the field.
The need for more diversity in just about every tech-oriented industry was a clear throughline of VivaTech 2018. From President Macron to IBM CEO Ginni Rometty to Andela President Christina Sass, a number of speakers constructed strong cases for why tech needs input from a broader range of voices in order to move forward.
One of the more encouraging developments on the diversity front was the creation of a dedicated space for African startups, the Afric@Tech Zone. In addition to a full slate of speakers, the Zone provided 50 African startups with access to local incubators and accelerators along with the chance to pitch their solutions to global investors
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