Anuskha Varsha Sonai is an ICT entrepreneur from Suriname. She is at the center of many Surinamese and regional initiatives for young people and women in Suriname to access training, hands-on experience and opportunities in order to work and thrive in the burgeoning technology sector. She is also active regionally as an advocate for awareness and training in ICT skills, and the creation of an inclusive digital economy and an ICT-friendly ecosystem. It is her ambition to be one of the leaders of a strong private sector where the focus lies on development of micro small and medium enterprises and women empowerment.
Ms Sonai is the Founder and President of Creative Tech Hub Caribbean, a cluster of companies that aims to develop the Caribbean’s creative technology ecosystem. It currently comprises five entities, 4 of which she co-founded: 21 Q Caribbean; Cloud Engine; Spang Makandra; Digital Talents Academu; and the Creative Talents Foundation. All the profits made by the first three are invested into the latter two, the Digital Talents Academy and the Creative Talents Foundation which are charitable initiatives.
The services offered by the three commercial companies include web development, mobile app development, social media services and cloud services to companies in the Caribbean, Europe and USA. Through the Digital Talents Academy, young people (aged 13 to 30) are offered free courses to help them into creative tech jobs such as Animators, Game Developers, Digital Designers, Content Creators, Social Media Marketers and Virtual Assistants. The Academy has also run courses for civic organisations and schools.
Ms Sonai also designed, launched and led the NxtGen Digital Professional programme in 2019 and 2020 through the Creative Talents Foundation, training 60 participants between the ages of 18 and 30 in social media, web development, internet marketing and digital content creation. A few years before that she introduced the Learn.Work.Grow Programme of Creative Tech Hub Caribbean where young talents are trained and shaped to become professionals and digital entrepreneurs in the creative industries.
Keen to see more women in Suriname’s tech industry, Ms Sonai has spearheaded two scholarship programmes: the Women in Tech Scholarship and the NxtGen Women in ICT Scholarship. She is also a member of the Women in Tech Caribbean community and the steering committee of the Caricom Girls in ICT Partnership to help encourage more women to step into the tech industry. In 2020, she was elected the second female Chair of the ICT Association of Suriname, and has led the association to engage with several key stakeholders to develop the ICT sector, and has teamed up with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to produce a webinar series on digital inclusion – an important consideration given the number of people who are unbanked or without access to technology. In February 2022, she was the first female to be assigned as the representative of the Business Services Sector (a group of 70 member companies) of the Suriname Trade and Industry Association.
Additionally, Ms Sonai is an advocate for regional ICT development and collaboration. With input from other professionals in Suriname, Guyana, Trinidad, Jamaica, Barbados, Bahamas, Grenada (including creative studios, private sector organisations, government), she developed a Digital Entrepreneurship Ecosystem model for the Caribbean – a model of the key focal points for development, including legislation, human capital and funding.
She is also the festival manager of the Trinidad-based Animae Caribe Animation Festival and collaborates with the Guyana Animation Network (GAN), Jamaica Animation Network (JANN) and Trinidad Animation Network (TTAN).
Apart from creating advocacy and industry education, Ms Sonai is also involved in research. She produced a Suriname ICT sector monitor to analyse the local ICT sector; and helped produce a market assessment, Identifying Training Needs for ICT Skills. She also teamed up with ICT professionals to design and produce the region’s largest ICT event, ICT Summit, Paramaribo, over three consecutive years (2013, 2014 and 2015). Additionally, she has been the chair of the Marketing & Communications Committee of CANTO (Caribbean Association of National Telecommunication Organizations).
She dedicates most of her time to engage and grow with key stakeholders in the Caribbean through which engagement she is helping to create a digital community in the Caribbean an opening up tech opportunities to underrepresented groups, particularly women.