• Wednesday, May 22, 2024
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BusinessDay

Towards bridging the gender divide in ICT development

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 Globally, there is recognition of the potential of Information Communications Technology (ICT) as a tool for the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women. Countless international reports have identified a ‘gender divide’ in ICTs especially in sub-Saharan Africa. This is apparent in the lower numbers of women accessing and using ICTs compared to their male counterparts.

Industry experts further argue that unless this gender divide is specifically addressed, there is a risk that ICT may exacerbate existing inequalities between women and men and create new forms of inequality.

Marking this year’s Information Communications Technology (ICT) for Girls’ Day in Nigeria, the Women In Technology In Nigeria (WITIN), with other stakeholders have stressed the importance of the female folks, especially girls in ICT development in the country.

Specifically, the association noted that there is a growing gap between ICT adoption by girls and boys, stressing that this must be bridged in order to create more empowerment in the country. Indeed and globally, every April 25, according to the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), is observed as a ‘Day for Girls in ICT’.

According to Martha Alade, WITIN’s chairperson at the forum in Lagos, girls should consider taking up careers in the ICT field. With the theme: ‘’Women and Girls in Technology- Expanding Horizons’’, Alade said that the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and other stakeholders believed that ICT affected the life and work of everyone on earth, hence the need for girls to be involved in ICT.

According to her, with the future constantly being reinvented through technology, ICT is one of the best areas to get into by girls. “We are here to raise the visibility of numerous women in ICT in Nigeria, to celebrate the feat of our young girls who have made tremendous impact in the field.

‘’We are here to encourage more girls to step up to technology and not leave all the fun to boys in shaping our future,’’ she said. Alade, who said ‘International Girls in ICT Day’ was an initiative backed by the ITU member states in 2010 and celebrated on the 4th Thursday in April every year, noted that the initiative intended to create a global environment that would empower and encourage girls and young women to consider careers in the field of ICTs.

Among the speakers at the forum was Ann Chang, the senior advisor for Women and Technology at the US Department of State, who revealed that that only about 25 percent Nigerians were connected on the internet.

encouraging girls’ involvement in innovative skills through its various programmes such as the mobile apps competition where they are exposed to the development of applications that could solve societal problems.

“The country stands disadvantaged if the disparity to basic ICT services continue, as girls with technological skills are critical to achieving a better society,” she said. Dabiri stated that she would work closely with the National Assembly in embarking on programmes that would strengthen girls’ involvement in ICT, and that one of the ways is through developing talents at incubation centres and technology parks within the country.

She said technology parks, which are currently on the front burner of government programmes in developing a knowledge-based economy would contribute immensely to technical skills for girls, and that it would also arouse their interest in science related subjects and courses in secondary and tertiary institutions.

Representing the Minister of Science and Technology (Ita Okon Bassey Ewa), Julie Momah, the Centre manager\deputy director, Technology Incubation Centre, said from time immemorial, women and girls have been engaged in scientific development in their quest for sustenance, and this is evident in the traditional herbal medicine which was later developed by modern science.

She added that technological innovations such as computers have also enhanced the pace of productivity in their daily lives. To Njideka Jack, the senior manager, Data Communications Services Planning, MTN Nigeria, gender stereotype was one of the barriers to girls taking up courses and careers in technology.

Jack said that some girls have the mindset that careers in ICT were meant for boys and that such careers were tedious. She called on older girls in ICT careers to motivate and train the younger girls to see reasons to go into such careers in Nigeria (WITIN), with other stakeholders stressing the importance of the female folks, especially girls in ICT development in the country.