Betelhem Dessie was born in 1999 in Harar, Ethiopia. Bethlehem’s interest in technology
began at a young age when she began working in her father’s shop. Betelhem begged her
father for money to celebrate her 9th birthday with her friends, but because he was busy at
his shop, he would not give her money, so she offered that she make her own money and use
it to celebrate her birthday. She earned 1600 Ethiopian Birr by distributing audio and video
files to consumers. Her interest in computers grew as a result of this experience. She
increased her video editing, computer maintenance, and smartphone software installation
skills, and she taught her friends basic computer skills. She was able to code in HTML by the
age of 10.
Betelhem then developed her own website using Java script but she had no idea about
hosting and taking it on the internet. But her work got noticed by the government, and she was
then hired as a developer for the Ethiopian Information Network Security Agency (INSA) at
the age of twelve after migrating from Harar to Addis Abeba with her parents, making her the
the youngest member of the INSA, her salary at the time was 1800 Birr.
Following INSA, Betelhem worked for a number of firms, including Tecno and EBAGD. She was
also a trainer at Bahirdar University, a mentor at the US Embassy Project “Girls Can Code,”
and several other companies, all while continuing her education at a very young and early
age. Bethlehem worked as an intern at iCog Labs. iCog Labs is a technology firm that
specializes in artificial intelligence and robotics. She quickly advanced through the ranks at
iCog Labs, and in 2016, she co-founded the Anyone Can Code (ACC) program, which teaches
coding and robotics to children and youth. ACC has served over 26,000 students in Ethiopia
and around the world.
Betelhem also works on a project called “Solve it” which is a nationwide innovation
the competition targets young talents between the age of 18-28 that aims to find solutions to
society’s problems using technology.
Betelhem never graduated from university but she continually learns new skills, she even
took a course on psychology and fashion design. Betelhem is a strong supporter of STEM
education in addition to her work with iCog Labs and ACC. She has spoken about the
importance of STEM education for young people at a number of conferences and events. She
also serves as a mentor to emerging entrepreneurs and tech executives.
Honors and recognition
Betelhem Dessie’s work has earned her multiple honors, including:
The Quartz Africa Innovator Award (2019)
The African Women in STEM Award (2020)
The Forbes Africa 30 Under 30 Award (2021)
Betelhem Dessie is an inspiration and a role model for all of today’s youth, especially women.
She is an example of how hard work and perseverance can pay you and help you realize your
goals, no matter who you are or where you come from. Through her efforts at iCog Labs and
ACC, technology in Ethiopia and across Africa is being revolutionized. She is an inspiration to
other young people because she demonstrates that they, too, can make a difference in the
Betelhem Dessie is enthusiastic about applying technology to real-world challenges. She
intends to continue her work with iCog Labs and ACC, as well as to establish new projects that
will employ technology to enhance people’s lives in Ethiopia and Africa. She is a positive
force in the world, and she will undoubtedly have a huge impact in the years to come.