Women are natural leaders, planners, administrators and strategic thinkers and should embrace careers in information and communication technology, affirms PROFESSOR UMAR GARBA DANBATTA
THE International Girls in ICT Day is celebrated annually around the world with the aim of raising awareness on the growing importance of digital skills for girls, to pursue successful professional careers across sectors.
The initiative aims to create a global environment that empowers and encourages girls and young women to consider studies and careers in the growing field of information and communication technologies (ICTs), enabling both girls and technology companies to reap the benefits of greater female participation in the ICT sector. It also aims at addressing the decline of school girls opting to study technology related disciplines and to champion the catalytic role a tech career can play in creating exciting and far reaching opportunities for girls. According to the ITU, ICT skills are highly transferable, and in –demand everywhere, thus women with ICT skills will be able to work almost anywhere they want. ICT skills will lead girls into really interesting and useful careers.
The Girls In ICT initiative became necessary due to the growing gap observed between the digital skills needed by employers, and the number of jobseekers with the required technical know-how. This means that highly qualified women in technical fields have significant opportunities available to them. However, not enough students are preparing themselves for studies in math, engineering, computing, and sciences, and the number of female technical students is disproportionately low.
In addition, the lack of young women attracted to ICT studies is reflected in ICT companies and government agencies around the world. The ICT sector is currently male dominated, especially at senior levels. Where women are present, they are often in low-level, low-skilled jobs. Fortunately, many companies and organizations are looking to increase the number of women in the sector, realizing that increasing the number of women at the top positively impacts financial performance; those that ignore diversity issues, risk on-going labour shortages.
The ICT sector is marked by a pressing need for a wide range of ICT talents and skills. Companies are looking to attract and promote women, because achieving greater workforce diversity is good for business. This leads me to the theme for this year which is “Expand Horizons with an ICT Skilled Girl Force”. According to ITU statistics, it is estimated that within the next ten (10) years, there will be more than 2 million technology jobs that cannot be filled due of lack of qualified ICT specialists. To this end, it is imperative to observe the Girls In ICT day while also utilizing the platform as a medium to inspire young girls as well as educate them on the vital role of women in ICT.
Indeed, your gender should never be a limitation for you but rather an asset. This is even truer of women who are natural leaders, planners, administrators and strategic thinkers. That is why in the modern world we have great women doing great things. Today, the Chief Operating Officer (COO) of Facebook US, as well as the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of YouTube US, CEO HP US, CEO IBM US, Co-CEO Oracle US and CEO Xerox US, are all women! It might interest you to know that the CEO of Xerox US, Ursula Burns, is an African American. In Nigeria women are making great waves in the ICT sector, The CEO of Main One Cable Funke Opeke is a woman. Your race and your gender are not limiting factors to your capacity and the potential role you can play in the digital space today.
As young ladies gathered here today, I wish to categorically inform and educate you that your capacity in the digital space, and indeed, in anything you wish to do in this world, is determined by your own drive, your ambition, your hard work, determination, tenacity, intellect, study, analytical thinking, personal self-confidence and poise, and your strive for excellence.
It is, therefore, timely that we are discussing empowering the girls to participate in the digital age as the world celebrates the International Day of Girls in ICT.
Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), as the regulator for the communication sector in Nigeria, has continued to play a vital role in ensuring the actualization of the Girls In-ICT objective. Last year, a one-day ICT workshop was organized for appreciation/training for over 100 secondary school girls drawn from schools in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) as part of global events to commemorate the International Girls in ICT Day 2018.
The Event was well attended by Primary and Secondary School Students who were well informed about the Importance of ICT, Cyber Crimes and how to avoid Cyberbullying as well as, how to engage positively with social media platforms.
The Commission also, through collaborations and supports to various advocacy groups in different parts of the country, has been raising awareness about the opportunities in the ICT sector for women. These advocacy groups like E- Business Life and High Tech Centre for women, organized various activities to raise awareness and empower girls and young women to choose careers in ICT.
Through Seminars and workshops, Smart Girls in ICT Clubs, sponsored by the Commission, many young girls/women have been empowered to know that careers in ICTs are very often dynamic, creative and flexible, as well as being well-remunerated. ICT ecosystem provides the most tremendous opportunity for women – who frequently find themselves under-paid, and often under-employed.
The Commission, aware of the fact that we are in a knowledge based economy has, through its various intervention projects, donated computers and internet facilities to secondary schools and tertiary institutions to improve the ICT skills of the students to make them more employable.
In conclusion, I implore all the Girls present at the celebration of the International Girls In ICT to actively participate in all planned activities and be open-minded in pursuing a career in the ICT Sector. You should never let anyone tell you that you cannot do it. Maximise the opportunities given to you. Do whatsoever you set your heart to do in the Technology space. There are no limitations. Nigeria does not limit you, your teachers, parents and lecturers do not limit you. The work place does not limit you.
They are all open to using your skills for the greater good. The digital space is the normal space for your generation. Do not be left be out of it.
I will like to leave you with a quote from the United Nations’ Secretary General – António Guterres:
“Gender equality is a human rights issue, but it is also in all our interests: men and boys, women and girls. Gender inequality and discrimination against women harms us all. There is overwhelming evidence that investing in women is the most effective way to lift communities, companies and countries. Women’s participation makes peace agreements stronger, societies more resilient and economies more vigorous… Gender equality is the unfinished business of our time”.
- Being keynote address delivered by Director, Projects Abigail Sholanke on behalf of the EVC/CEO of the NCC at the celebration of International Girls In ICT Day 2019, courtesy of E-Business Life magazine.