In late January, Leila Janah passed away at the age of 37. (Janah suffered from complications from epithelioid sarcoma, a type of cancer.) This is a devastating loss, not only for aspiring women-leaders but for the technology industry and wider society as a whole.
Janah was the CEO and founder of Samasource, a nonprofit organization that strives to expand opportunities for low-income individuals through the digital economy, chiefly data work. As Samasource describe themselves:
“Samasource works with companies that need certain types of relatively simple tasks done, like database cleanup, translations, transcriptions, etc. Samasource charges companies on a per action basis, and then pays workers in Kenya, Uganda, India, Pakistan and Haiti to do the work.
The tasks are generally more complicated than Mechanical Turk stuff, and the company pays a minimum of $1/hour to workers who were previously living on less than $3/day. Some workers, who build up to more complex tasks, make as much as $10/hour.”
Founded more than a decade ago, Samasource not only helped lift people out of poverty but also helped machine learning specialists to develop better and more egalitarian ML models via more complete and ethical training data sets. In this battle against bias, Janah was well ahead of her time.
Janah was an inspiration to all leaders because she focused her career on ethical entrepreneurship and technological innovation with human goals. She was doubly inspirational to female leaders, who often have to battle gendered obstacles as they struggle to advance in the tech industry.
At Opsani, we work with AI and ML. Internally, we try and uphold the highest standards of fairness and equality. As we grow and expand as a company, we are all committed to developing programs and initiatives that are as big-hearted and as impactful as Janah’s. Her legacy reminds us all that leaders can use their power and resources to make the world a better place.
“I strongly believe you can combine the highest quality of service with the core mission of altruism,” Janah once said. The tech sector can be a cut-throat, get-mine sort of a place. We should all remember these words as we build our projects and our businesses.