Young woman eyes digital solutions to tackle mental health
June 9, 2023
Lidia Solomon is one of the young female innovative entrepreneurs charting their way in the emerging tech industry in Ethiopia. At 21 and in her senior year of college studying computer science, Lidia founded LSSYA, an online psychotherapy platform that connects users to counselling in private and safe space.
LYSSA is Lidia's response to mental health challenges she faced as a teenager. Lidia was uncomfortable going public with her challenges and risking social stigma connected with accessing mental health resources in the conventional manner. "I was searching for a platform like LSSYA to assist me, but I was unable to find one that met my requirements."
With this vivid memory close to her heart, Lidia's goal was to ensure that others do not face the same challenges, but instead could receive the necessary resources and support to flourish.
Lidia confidently reflects, “I am a creative and revolutionary thinker who has always been passionate about making a difference. I discovered my passion for leading teams and achieving beyond what was expected of me at the young age of 14, and since then, I have been on a journey of growth and leadership.”
According to a 2022 article published by the International Journal of Mental Health Systems, stigma is a critical issue that hinders access to mental health services in Ethiopia, highlighting that 'Even though mental health stigma and discrimination are universal, there appears to be a higher burden in low- and middle-income countries.'
Lidia is well aware of this issue, “My journey has led me to start my own company, LSSYA, which fights against mental health stigma in the country. Currently, I lead a team of 20 people at my company, which has served more than 1,500 users so far. We are following a pay-as-you-go model where users can purchase sessions, and we will take a cut from it. The platform is working in two languages: English and Amharic, and there is a plan to expand in more local and international languages”.
Lidia's hard work is paying off. She emerged among the ten winners of ETDEEDS, a competition to support and create job opportunities for startups. Organized by the Ministry of Innovation and Technology and UNDP for startups with digital solutions, the competition was part of a larger UNDP project focused on promoting innovation for development with the support of KOICA.
Lidia was also one of those who benefited from a UNDP supported digital entrepreneurs incubation programme - AHUN 1 . The programme is implemented in partnership with the Ministry of labour and skills to support tech startups and early stage high-growth digital entrepreneur operating within the Ethiopian context.
In 2022 Lidia's startup, LSSYA, received a US$ 5,000 grant and training from UNDP to help launch the business. Lidia also broadened her horizons and gained valuable global experience when she was selected as one of the few female founders to participate in a Ethio-Israeli exchange program facilitated by UNDP.
Lidia recognises that keeping up with the latest trends and technologies is crucial for her continued success in the industry, especially when she faces challenging conditions and limited exposure to the tech sector.
“Every day is a new challenge regarding resources, unseen setbacks, and new technologies. The tech industry, by its nature, is constantly evolving, and it can be difficult to keep up with all the changes. However, I’d like to see these as opportunities to do and learn something new and find a new solution. I am dealing with this challenge by regularly attending conferences and workshops and staying connected with other professionals in the field."
The tech industry also welcomed Lidia with many opportunities to connect with other female digital entrepreneurs, to learn, unleash her creativity, and collaborate to develop solutions to complex problems. “It is incredibly rewarding to see our ideas take shape and to know that we are making a positive impact on the world. I also love the challenge of constantly pushing myself and my team to come up with new and better solutions and to keep pushing the boundaries of what is possible.”
Looking back at her experience, Lidia's advice to other young people and innovators is to take risks, stay curious, collaborate, be resilient, believe in themselves, and remember that innovation can come from improving existing ideas.
As she puts it, "LSSYA is important to me because I'm tackling a real-life problem alongside my team and providing a great solution. I am passionate about seeing it through and being able to help fight the mental health stigma."
UNDP is working to promote digitalization and strengthen the innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem in Ethiopia. In 2020 the country launched a Digital Ethiopia 2025 strategy to accelerate digital innovations for the benefit of citizens.
In addition to the innovation for development project, UNDP has recently formed a partnership with the National Bank of Ethiopia to set up an Innovative Finance Lab. The lab helps to test, innovate and develop inclusive instruments to unlock new avenues of financing, including digital services, for a rapidly growing MSME sector in Ethiopia.