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Betelhem Dessie, Youngest Coder at Ethiopia’s First AI Lab


TechInAfrica – Artificial intelligence (simply referred to as AI) has taken a big part of our lives in many forms imaginable. From sophisticated, well-engineered robots, to your friendly, everyday virtual assistants. They simply make our lives easier with their information retrieval and data processing, all while being run by millions of strings of code. One of the contributors to this engaging world is Betelhem Dessie, a 19-year-old prodigy who works at ‘Sheba Valley’, home to Ethiopia’s fast-growing tech ecosystems.

Dessie, having affiliated in the robotics lab iCog as their data organizer for a number of nationwide programs, now has four programs copyrighted exclusively to her name. One of which is an application designed entirely for the Ethiopian government to monitor rivers used for irrigation.

Betelhem Dessie via

Technology and engineering have always been a part of her life since she was 9. Her father was an electronics vendor in Harar, Eastern Ethiopia, where she grew up. At first, small tasks—big for a 9-year-old, we presume—like video editing and sending music to customer’s phones seemed alluring yet intriguing for her. Little that young Dessie knew, that intrigue of hers would turn to renown her as one of the prodigies in Ethiopia’s tech scene.

iCog, which was operational since 2013, also participated in the making of world-renowned Sophia the Robot. Following that, Ethiopia’s tech scene is expected to experience an increase in productivity and economical contribution after Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed took office in April.

Abiy brought forth a new multibillion-dollar privatization policy for a number of state-owned telecom companies, with hopes to lay foundation for a better internet access for everyone—along with concerns in the country’s shift in economic liberalization This argument was further strengthened by the previous internet blackout issued by the government as a sanction, prior to Abiy taking office.

Source: CNN


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