- Representative of Hon. Ministers
- Mr. Chairman
- Representative of Director General, PURA
- Members of the Diplomatic Corps
- Chief Executive Officers of the ICT Fraternity
- Distinguished Guests,
- Ladies and Gentlemen
- All other protocols duly observed
Good morning to you all.
I would like to welcome you to the fourth ITU International Girls in ICT Day. This is the third time we in The Gambia are celebrating this very promising event; the last two celebrations were successfully spearheaded by the Information Technology Association of The Gambia (ITAG) but this year, our Ministry has decided to take the lead in partnership with private and public stakeholders in marking our third year with a bigger and bolder stance.
This event is close to my heart as it was personally championed by our then PS, Madam Nancy Niang, now the PS for the Ministry of Youth and Sports. Her encouragement to prioritize the issue of championing our girls to embrace technology has remained with me.
International Girls in ICT Day is an initiative backed by ITU Member Sates in 2010, to create a global environment that empowers and encourages girls and young women to consider careers in the growing field of ICTs and to make gender mainstreaming in the ICT sector a priority with the support of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS). And to also promote gender equality toward and all-inclusive access to information, in order to bridge the digital gender divide.
One might ask, why we need to engage more girls and women in ICT? Well according to an ITU study, “human talent with the right skill sets is the keystone of a vibrant and diversified ICT sector. That talent pool needs to be enriched through the nurturing and training of non-discriminatory human capital, primarily in universities, research and development centres and trade or ‘applied’ schools, in order to respond to the ever-evolving needs of the ICT industry. [Therefore] equal participation of women and men in policy-making and decision-making and equal access to communication services for both women and men is a necessity for a balanced society.”
Studies have showed that the ICT sector remains a viable and promising sector for employment. This makes it a driver in socio-economic development and women must take advantage of this. But the growth in jobs in the ICT domain has seen a lot of women left behind especially at the senior level due to demotivation, retention and lack of promotion within the sector.
Did you know that women were amongst the first US government’s computer programmers? In the US in the 1980s, young women were earning 37% of computer science degrees; today, that number has fallen to below 20%. But while teenage girls now use computers and the Internet at rates similar to boys, they are five times less likely to consider a technology-related career.
So why the plunge in women being engaged in ICT especially its technical aspect? Why is it that women are five times less likely to go into computer related fields? We need to debunk the myth that ICTs are complex and Computer Science is a man’s discipline. The figures says it all, almost 95% of all jobs require ICT skills and women must not be left behind. Technology is the new currency and without the acquirement of its appropriate application, one will surely be left behind.
MOICI as the authority in charge of pushing the nation’s overall ICT agenda is tasked with creating a conducive environment for our girls, in order for them to find space in the ever-evolving sphere of technology; we have done this by highlighting gender mainstreaming in our NICI policy. We need to encourage our girls in engaging themselves in maths and science. We need teachers that would nudge them toward the so-called hard subjects in order for them to go into more technical fields and most important, parents must invest time and care in supporting girls interested in the above subjects.
At MOICI, our goal is to place the Girls in ICT issue on the forefront. Girls are to be the mothers of tomorrow and as the maxim goes, when one educates a woman, one educates a village. In partnership with the ITU, we are pushing for women’s development and employment in ICTs. We would like to demonstrate to girls that ICT can be a smart, lucrative and fun-fulfilling career path.
Our celebration of Girls in ICT day is an ongoing one and will not end on the official day itself. We plan on pushing the Girls in ICT agenda via different mechanisms such as, mentorships, education and social awareness campaigns. Girls need to understand the weight in creating technology that works for them.
No one knows you like you know yourself; therefore a more holistic approach to technology needs to be pushed in order for African girls to innovate gender appropriate applications that favor them. Government plays a mammoth task in this sphere, by designing policies that promote and encourage girls to embrace ICTs and the public sector comes into play by creating a level playing field for girls to be incorporated into their institutions.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank our multi-stakeholder task force members. I am grateful for their endless support in working together to make our series of activities leading to the official day tomorrow, a reality. At our first meeting, PS Niang’s words: “you must work together as a chain, for when a link is missing the chain shall be broken.” Though we got tangled at times, we never allowed ourselves to completely miss a link. We thank PS Niang for her endless sound advice.
I would also like to thank our sponsors and above all, I cannot end this speech without thanking the institution that has become our development partners – the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA); my Ministry continues to be appreciative for your existence. Solid partners in ICT development we've become and your open door policy has made many of our events possible. So we are therefore grateful for your endless support.
I would also like to thank all the very important personalities here today, gracing our opening ceremony and for the participants of this workshop, I wish us all successful deliberations.
Good day to you all and may we be forever blessed.