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Dorothy Ooko, tech savvy woman: 'My phone is my personal assistant'


Dorothy Akinyi Ooko’s love for technology knows no bounds. As the public and communications manager for Google in the region, her insatiable desire to use the latest technology in solving life’s problems has put her among the most tech savvy women in the country.

The renowned search engine is part of her life as is eating and drinking. She has no alternative. Google is an invention that has rocked the technological world and is at the core of lifestyles for billions of people.

From brain surgery to a normal headache, “Dr Google” knows it all. Want to get some directions? Google knows the way. It is Dorothy’s responsibility to explain about these and many other benefits of the applicationto the media and the general public.

We met Dorothy on a warm Monday morning at her cosy and inviting house located along Oloolua Ridge, in Karen, Nairobi. We then took a brief walk around the compound to take in the fresh air of the leafy suburb. Some nearby ponies add to the tranquil atmosphere. It is here that she regularly takes some meditative strolls.

Inside the living room, captivating artwork by Jimnah Kimani depicting a woman’s everyday life stare at every guest. An adjacent bookshelf holds more than 100 books. Dorothy has read almost all. Currently, she is busy with the book, Getting More-How to Negotiate to Achieve Your Goals in the Real World by Stuart Diamond.

Negotiating skills

“I think we all get raw deals because we do not have good negotiating skills,” she says.

Even then, it was obvious that Dorothy and technology are inseparable. As a young girl growing up in Nairobi’s Park Road area, she always wanted to know how things worked and never wanted to grow up into a woman who always had to call others to fix things. To this end, Dorothy’s smart phone is her most faithful companion.

“The only time I put it down is when am in the gym since they don’t allow electronic gadgets or when I am sleeping. Otherwise, my phone is my personal assistant and friend. In fact, if I get to the office and for some reason realise that I had left the phone at home, I will have to get the driver to fetch it for me. It is that serious,” she says.

And although many think that mobile applications are only for the technology savvy individuals, Dorothy is quick to dispel such notions.

“Technology should improve people’s lives, not complicate it. As an example, a housewife should be able to arrange her daily affairs using all sorts of applications. A woman can programme her day and use technology to call a customer. Even a newly married woman with little experience in cooking can get useful tips from current technology. It should give us more knowledge by filling us on what we don’t know,” says Dorothy.

As we settle down in her tastefully decorated sitting room, the “social techy” goes on to demonstrate how one particular application, ‘Google Now’, can become your personal assistant.

With her fast moving fingers, Dorothy shows how a housewife can schedule her appointments, check the weather, review stock market updates and download chicken kiev recipes among other uses.

“Thanks to the gender balance laws under the current Constitution, we now have more women in top policy making levels of Government. Women in leadership bring a different dimension to matters under discussion, as they are able to see things in a number of settings. Gone are the days when a woman’s place was just the kitchen. She is handling real estate, transport business beside senior management positions,” she tells us.

She never gets tired while rooting for such technology among womenfolk. According to Dorothy, women have more daily planning responsibilities compared to men. They have no choice but multitask to ensure that not only are their personal needs met, but also those of their spouses and children. As a result, they may easily forget other important matters like a doctor’s visit or exercising.

“In such cases, technology can come to their aid by compiling a ‘to do’ list with reminders as to when each task should be handled,” she adds.

She believes the country can do more by embracing new technology similar to the M-Pesa wave that has made Kenya an envy of many nations on earth.  “Can you imagine that while a woman enters the shopping mall, she can already get information on her phone about which store has special offers and at what price? She then would proceed to pay by just swiping her phone. No cash needed. That is the future of technology”.

Rightly used, technology has the ability to break social and economic barriers, narrow the gap between the haves and have nots. She cites the government’s pledge to provide laptops to children joining Class One as an example on how to achieve such a classless society.

 “Just think about what that means. We are talking of a child in a Nairobi school having the same curriculum as a child in Turkana. This will give confidence to that child in the far north. Currently, the two children are worlds apart, not just in physical terms but academically as well. Then there are the endless opportunities for educators to load their material online,” she says.

Dorothy in her words

I was born here in Nairobi and grew up in Park Road. My dad worked for the Kenya Railways while mum worked at the East African Airways. I attended Pangani Girls High School for my O-Levels before proceeding to Alliance Girls for the A-Levels. I had already developed a passion for learning French while in high school. To this end, I enrolled at the Université de Haute Bretagne in France to further this ideal. Upon return, I joined Kenyatta University and pursued a Bachelor of Education after which I taught at Mukumu Girls. I then pursued a Master of Arts in French followed by a Master of Science in Business Administration. I first taught at Kenyatta University before moving to United States International University for more than 16 years. Besides speaking French and Spanish, I have a basic understanding of Portuguese. Prior to joining Google I had a stint at Nokia’s regional office.

As you can see, I love good art. I enjoy music concerts too. By the way I am also a fan of Manchester United, a team l support to annoy my family that supports Arsenal. I was lucky to visit Old Trafford and watch ‘Man U’ thrash Arsenal, quite an unforgettable experience!

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