The first International Girls in ICT Day was marked on Thursday, April 26th, 2012, and at least five African countries joined in the festivities. Established through a formal resolution by the International Telecommunication Union in 2010, the annual event aims to create a global environment that empowers girls and young women pursuing careers in the ICT field.
Johanna Havemann reports
The main celebration was held in New York, USA, where over two hundred gender, education and technology experts from NGOs, universities, government agencies and industry gathered for a day of conversations with women who have made an impact in the ICT field. The speakers included Kenya’s Juliana Rotich, Executive Director of the crowdsourcing platform Ushahidi; Alethea Lodge-Clarke, Programme Manager of Public Private Partnerships for Microsoft; Nidhi Tandon, author of the ITU’s report “A Bright Future: New Opportunities for Girls in ICT”; and Sarah Wynn-Williams, Manager of Global Public Policy for Facebook.
In addition to the New York gathering, over one hundred official Girls in ICT Day events were held in more than seventy countries worldwide. The enthusiasm for the occasion shown by Ghana, Liberia, Nigeria, Senegal and Swaziland made Africa proud.
With the theme “Broadening Horizons and Changing Attitudes”, the Ghana event was organised by the country’s Ministry of Communication and the National Communication Authority with support from the ITU. Amongst the panellists were Dorothy K. Gordon, Director General of the Kofi Annan Centre of Excellence in ICT; Lucy Quist, Managing Director of Vodafone Wholesale in Ghana; Estelle Sowah, Country Director of Google Ghana; Yvette Adunyo Atekpe, Regional Managing Director of Internet Solution Ghana; and Caroline Edmundson, ICT Facilitator at the Kwame Nkrumah University Of Science and Technology. Prior to the event, the young participants were taken to ICT centres in Accra such as BusyInternet, MTN, Vodafone, rLG and Zepto.
The message of Liberia’s Girls in ICT Day was: “Unleashing the Power of Girls and Young Women through ICT Exposure”. Organised by the Internet Society of Liberia (ISOC-Liberia) in collaboration with stakeholders including government, telecommunication companies and schools, the activities took place over two days. The first day was an open day in ICT companies and digital centres (including iLab-Liberia) for up to five girls from twenty high schools and technical colleges. The second day consisted of an interactive conference at the University of Liberia. More than two hundred participants gathered to listen to women offering their professional insights on career opportunities within the ICT sector.
In Nigeria, female staffers at the United Nations arranged an outreach programme to inspire young students. Female professionals including doctors, engineers and ICT experts were invited to Jiwa Government Secondary School in Abuja to speak about their careers. In her opening remarks, UN Women National Programme Officer Adekemi Ndieli affirmed that the programme would help young girls to, “explore the challenges of the high school years and prepare them for the independence and responsibilities that they will encounter as young adults.” Inspired by the event, the students have launched a girls’ ICT club.
In Senegal, the main Girls in ICT Day event was comprised of speeches by ministers, multiple panel discussions with representatives and partners from all sectors, award ceremonies and a summary of recommendations. The Senegalese Ministry for Communication, Telecommunication and Technology in partnership with the private sector has laid the groundwork for ICT-related activities over the next three years for which around one thousand young women have already signed up. Since the initiatives aim to raise awareness in rural areas about the various ICT career opportunities, the information will be presented in the vernacular languages.
Participants in the Girls in ICT Day celebrations in Mbabane were treated to a tour of the Swaziland Television Authority. More than one hundred high school girls from difference provinces toured the facilities of the Posts and Telecommunications Corporation (SPTC). Before the tour, SPTC’s Systems Developer Nelisiwe Ndlela gave an account of how she’d broken the glass ceiling in Swaziland’s male-dominated ICT sector. In a prepared statement, the SPTC said, “girls must realise at a young age that they too have an important role to play in the development of Swaziland’s economy.”
Learn more about the Girls in ICT initiative here.
eLearning Africa keynote speaker Dorcus Muthoni is the founder of AfChix, a network which provides mentorship and career support for young women in ICT. She is also the founder and CEO of business technology solutions firm Openworld, and her plenary presentation will be entitled Can Mobile and Web Technology Be Used to Respond and Turn Around Low Literacy Rates in Africa Through Entrepreneurship? Be there on Friday, May 25th at eLearning Africa in Cotonou!