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Ayanna Samuels — OUT OF THIS WORLD

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

AYANNA Samuels has a lot on her plate. She is an aerospace engineer, technology policy specialist, gender advocate and international development professional. She has also run a consultancy practice for over 17 years.

Her practice focuses on: the use of ICTs and technology policy as enablers of access to basic human rights, socio-economic empowerment and poverty eradication, gender equity in STEM, the role space technology can play in realising the UN's Sustainable Development Goals, and bridging the digital divide.

All of that rests on a solid academic foundation. The Campion College graduate holds three degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), two Master of science degrees and a bachelor of science. She applied to MIT to pursue her first science degree in aerospace engineering with information technology, and became the only person directly from Jamaica to be accepted into the class of 2002. She soon followed up with double master's degrees in technology policy and aerospace engineering and again broke ground in 2005 by being the first black woman since 1972 to earn an MSc in aerospace engineering from the institute. Always eager to continue learning and growing, Samuels has pursued further education in ICT and technology policy for development, gender and human development since graduating from MIT. She has worked with various international development multilaterals, international industry leaders in tech, and innovative start-ups. Over the years she has become internationally renowned for her work that straddles ICT for development (ICT4D), gender equity and STEM, and she is published in all these fields.

Samuels has also coordinated research and managed projects for several distinguished clients including the World Bank, Caribbean Development Bank, International Development Bank, Caribbean Association of National Telecommunications Organisations (CANTO), Caricom, Caribbean Telecommunications Union, Latin America and Caribbean Network Information Centre (LACNIC), International Telecommunications Union (ITU), Commonwealth Telecommunications Organization, International Institute for Communications and Development, St Lucia Coalition of Services Industries as well as technical start-ups like mSurvey. She has also worked with a UN body, the ITU, in Geneva, Switzerland, on two different occasions.

On the speaking circuit, Samuels has delivered numerous international talks on gender equity in the Caribbean's ICT sector and in 2016 the World Bank invited her to be a member of the selection committee for the Women Innovators Network in the Caribbean's entrepreneur Acceleration Program. The initiative spanned numerous Caribbean countries.

An advocate for living one's best life, Samuels also acts as a health and wellness advisor and motivational speaker. She commands respect as a focused athlete, having practised ballet from age six to 18. She is a past award-winning international body building and fitness athlete, a committed triathlete and a multi-medal-winning 5K and 10K runner.

Now a member of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Samuels explained that the experiences she's lived provide her with the motivation to inspire young women to chase their dreams.