The work of the Nigerian Communications Commission in the area of women and girls mainstreaming in ICT entrepreneurship is helping to create a more level playing field for women and girls in the ICT sector as well as helping to empower women and girls to use ICT to improve their lives and the lives of their communities, assures PROFESSOR UMAR GARBA DANBATTA.
I am delighted to join you today at the Nigerian Women Entrepreneurs and Executives in Tech Summit themed ‘Breaking The Glass Ceiling For Women And Girls To Thrive In The Digital Economy’.
The digital economy is growing rapidly in Nigeria, and with it, the opportunities for women and girls to participate and thrive. However, women and girls still face several barriers to entering and succeeding in the digital economy.
Bridging this digital gender gap will demand confronting the challenges that hinder access to the use of ICTs. These obstacles include lack of access to education and digital skills, Gender stereotypes and discrimination, Lack of female role models, among others.
Let me bring the interesting story of a coalition under the ITU and UN Women that has very much focused on the issues around gender digital divide. This is because this programme easily encapsulates all the issues and focus of the campaign and actions towards bridging the gender digital divide.
The EQUALS Global Partnership for Gender Equality in the Digital Age is a committed group of corporate leaders, governments, businesses, not-for-profit organizations, academic institutions, NGOs and community groups around the world dedicated to promoting gender balance in the technology sector by championing equality of access, skills development and career opportunities for women and men alike.
EQUALS began in 2014 as a collaboration between ITU and UN Women and called GEM-TECH Awards, to “create a platform for advancing women’s meaningful engagement with ICTs and their role as decision-makers and producers within this sector” by recognizing organizations that worked towards increasing women and girls’ presence in digital spaces, facilitating their access to new technologies and encouraging them to consider studies and careers in ICT.
You may recall that Nigeria’s Federal Ministry of Communications Technology, then led by former Minister Mrs. Omobola Johnson, was a recipient of this award in 2014. It is also worthy to note that the first woman in the 157th history of the International Telecommunications Union, Doreen Bogdan-Martin, assumed office in January, 2023.
EQUALS was launched in 2016 by ITU and the International Telecommunication Union and four founding partners – GSMA, the International Trade Centre, the United Nations University and UN Women, and uses a multidisciplinary approach that integrates research, policy and programming to promote gender equality in technology access, skills and leadership, as well as conducting ground-breaking, evidence-based research.
“By promoting awareness, building political commitment, leveraging resources and knowledge, harnessing the capacities of partners, and supporting real action – EQUALS seeks to achieve digital gender equality and through this, to improve the livelihoods of millions around the world”.
EQUALS works to reverse the increasing digital gender divide, and to close the gap by 2030 – supporting UN Sustainable Development Goal 5 by empowering women through their use of information and communication technologies. An action plan of data gathering, knowledge sharing and advocacy strengthening drives the EQUALS network partnership.
To achieve our goals, partners focus on four core issues: Access, Skills, Leadership and Research
On Access, they found that women are less likely to have access to the transformative power of the internet with the latest estimates from ITU suggesting that globally, women are 12 per cent less likely than men to use the Internet, a gap that is most pronounced in Least Developed Countries (LDCs), where women are 33 per cent less likely to use the Internet. Their goal is to reduce the gender gap in Internet access by 50 per cent by 2030.
On the issue of skills, they quoted recent United Nations data which reveals that digital skills divides across lines of gender are deep, wide and growing and in many national contexts, men are four times more likely than women to have advanced ICT skills such as the ability to programme computers, and similar divides are apparent for basic tasks such as using email or a spreadsheet.
These skills gaps carry serious repercussions for employment. Leading consulting companies estimate that 90 per cent of all future jobs will have a digital component. Despite this, the number of women choosing to pursue technology studies and careers has been declining globally since the 1980s.
Today in Europe, only 1 in 5 technology graduates are female, just 17 per cent of technology jobs are held by women, and app developers are six times more likely to be male than female. Over the past 10 years there has been no measurable improvement in the number of women choosing ICT careers. In the countries that make up the ‘global South,’ this digital skills gender gap is even more severe.
The goal of the coalition is to ensure 60 per cent of women and girls have achieved at least a minimum level of proficiency in sustainable digital skills by 2030. Part of this is to ensure girls receive a good ICT foundation at school and also to ensure that women and girls can access additional high quality ICT education and training.
On leadership, they affirmed that the “’technology industry has emerged as the world’s economic powerhouse, driving employment and investment and underpinning just about every other economic sector. It’s a field brimming with new opportunity, yet women are all but absent from the senior ranks of most tech companies. Recent figures show that while women now make up around 50 per cent of the global workforce, they hold fewer than 1 in 10 senior technology jobs. In Silicon Valley, only 2 per cent of VC tech funding goes to start-ups with female founders – and a mere 7 per cent of VC venture capital partners are women. In addition, qualified women are quitting the tech sector at twice the rate of men. Our goal is to ensure 30 per cent of tech leaders are women by 2030”.
Supporting the work of the three EQUALS Coalitions, the Research Coalition – led by the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) and The Georgia Institute of Technology (co-lead partner) – is fundamental to our emphasis on evidence-driven actions – to ensure that practitioners and policymakers have the intelligence they need to make informed decisions. – (https://www.equalsintech.org/about)
The Nigerian Communications Commission is committed to breaking the glass ceiling for women and girls in the digital economy. We have continually collaborated with our stakeholders in promoting female participation in STEM fields; we have also developed policies to protect women and girls from online harassment.
The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has made significant achievements in women/girls mainstreaming in ICT entrepreneurship for socio-economic development in Nigeria.
Some of these achievements include:
• Establishing the Women in ICT (WICT) Forum: The WICT Forum is a platform for women working in the ICT sector to network, share ideas, and collaborate on projects. The NCC has supported the WICT Forum through funding, training, and mentorship programs.
• Launching the Digital Skills for Women and Girls Initiative: This initiative provides digital skills training to women and girls across Nigeria. The training covers a wide range of topics, including basic computer skills, social media marketing, and app development.
• Organizing the Nigerian Girls Can Code (NGCC) Competition, as part of a deliberate inclusion of Girls in ICT, which in line with the United Nations’ effort to empower girls in technology and close the gender gap because empowering women and girls will help grow economies and drive productivity.
• Partnering with other organizations to promote women’s ICT entrepreneurship: The NCC has partnered with organizations such as the United Nations Women and the International Telecommunications Union to promote women’s ICT entrepreneurship. These partnerships have led to the development of programs and initiatives that support women in starting and growing their businesses.
• Providing funding and support to women-owned ICT businesses: The NCC has provided funding and support to women-owned ICT businesses through its various programmes and initiatives. This support has helped to create jobs, boost the economy, and improve the lives of women and girls in Nigeria.
These are just a few of the achievements of the NCC in the area of women/girls mainstreaming in ICT entrepreneurship. The Commission is committed to continuing its work in this area and to making a positive impact on the lives of women and girls in Nigeria.
In addition to the above, the NCC has also:
• Developed a National ICT Gender Policy to promote gender equality in the ICT sector.
• Conducted research on the status of women in the ICT sector.
• Organized workshops and trainings on ICT for women and girls.
• Awarded scholarships to women and girls to study ICT.
The NCC’s work in the area of women/girls mainstreaming in ICT entrepreneurship is helping to create a more level playing field for women and girls in the ICT sector. It is also helping to empower women and girls to use ICT to improve their lives and the lives of their communities.
I therefore urge you to actively participate as the summit progresses. Thank you, for your attention.
- Prof Umar Garba Danbatta, FNSE, FRAES, FAEng, FNIEE, Executive Vice Chairman/CEO Nigerian Communications Commission, delivered this keynote at the Third Edition of The Women Entrepreneurs And Executives Tech Summit & Awards (WEETSA) held at The Raddison Blu Hotel, Isaac John Street, Ikeja, GRA, Lagos, south west, Nigeria, on Thursday, September 14, 2023.