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Publicis's former director of information systems in Europe launches Isahit, a platform for digital mini-jobs. It promises an additional income to African women living below the poverty line.
Isabelle Mashola has left the very male-dominated parties of IT providers to put digital technology at the service of women in Africa. With her husband, she launched the Isahit application, a platform of mini-jobs for mothers and sisters of poor large families on the continent. The former CIO of Publicis in Europe is now a long way from the wine tasting and car racing spectacles she didn't enjoy in her former life.
The mobile and tablet application should lift "Jacky, Mame, Aita and, within three years, 10,000 other women who need additional income to continue their studies or expand their shops" out of poverty, explains Isabelle Mashola. According to a 2015 World Bank report, 347 million Africans south of the Sahara alone live below the extreme poverty line, on $1.90 a day. " Most of these people are women, and digital technology can make them economically independent," says the computer scientist turned start-up CEO. Isahit intends to provide her "hiteuses" and their families with a supplementary income of 20 dollars a day.
Paid by the job, Isahit's workers undertake to carry out a series of small tasks that software would not do well enough automatically. For example, moderating comments on the Internet, standardising the presentation of telephone numbers on customer files, or describing images with words to index them. A training group or start-ups already rely on Isahit for these missions. But Isabelle Mashola intends to use its networks in large groups to convince larger clients. "I am in contact with three CAC 40 companies that have interests in Africa," she says.
They will have to be persuaded that Isahit is not a copy of the decried Mechanical Turk service signed Amazon. Like Isahit, he mediates between a customer and a user who realizes the human Intelligence tasks (HITs).
But the few cents of remuneration offered by the American to the small hands of the digital world make it a frightening machine of precariousness for many. Isahit therefore insists on measuring its social impact. " We follow the careers of our 'hiteuses' and make sure that the money earned on our platform is used to finance a project or to improve their skills," says Isabelle Mashola.
That is why the manager has for the moment accepted only 33 "hiteuses" on the platform: no question of embarking anyone in the adventure. "They are tested to find out what tasks they are most comfortable with and to offer them missions accordingly, we do not want them to work all day on the platform,"she explains. Ex-DSI recruits in Cameroon, Burkina Faso, Congo, Senegal and Ivory Coast, before aiming at English-speaking Africa. Isahit lends smartphone and tablet to "hiteuses" which are not equipped. They can connect to the Internet by installing themselves in Fab Lab partners of the start-up.
For the néodirigeante, the cause of women is not a novelty. For the past seven years, she has participated in the Volunteer Endowment fund that supports women's entrepreneurship. "The idea of Isahit was born during a stay in Cameroon,"she says. For a year, the decision to leave Publicis has matured: "My values of sharing and solidarity were a little pushed into a large group." Free of hierarchy since July 2015, it promotes dignity through work. Not the easiest task.
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