Business Development Science and Technology

Increased participation of girls in ICT spurs innovation, sustainable development

Minister Muswere interacting with students in Gweru on International Girls in ICT Day

In calling for an increase in the participation of girls in information communication technology (ICT), a senior government official has said the move is a harbinger of inclusivity and sustainable development.

The theme of this year’s Girls in ICT Day Commemorations is “ACCESS AND SAFETY – Ensuring every girl has safe and meaningful access to digital technology and ICTs”.

In his keynote address today, the Minister of ICT, Postal and Courier Services, Hon Dr. Jenfan Muswere on the commemoration of International Girls in ICT Day, emphasised the need to engage and reengage, realign conditions that will introduce girls and young women to ICT much earlier in their lives.

“As we implement the Girls-in-ICT initiative and bridge the digital gender divide, it is important that we create the appropriate environment and policy realignment to sustain the interest of not only our young girls but their male counterparts as well. As the Ministry of ICT, Postal and Courier Services, we will work hard to ensure the availability of ICT infrastructure throughout the country to help provide internet connectivity and equip schools and the various Community Information Centres(CICs),” Minister Muswere said.

The International Girls in ICT Day was set aside by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) to inspire and empower young women and girls to take up ICT careers and become active stakeholders in the information society and promotion of ICT skills.

The International Telecommunications Union, the Ministry of ICT Postal and Courier Services, The Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education, the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ), and other ICT Sector players coordinated this year’s commemoration of the day.

The commemorations coincide with various programmes meant to motivate girls and young women to learn more about the amazing opportunities and careers offered by the ICT sector.

Zimbabwe’s celebration of the Girls-in ICT is in line with internationally adopted recommendations to implement initiatives aimed at bridging the Digital Gender Divide.

Zimbabwe has been celebrating this initiative in all Provinces in Zimbabwe. During these events, selected schools received computers and laptops to help ensure that every child has access to ICTs. The Ministry of ICT, Postal and Courier Services in partnership with POTRAZ and other stakeholders has also promoted ICT development in Zimbabwe through the establishment of computer laboratories at various schools countrywide, a program that is still ongoing targeting more than 8800 both primary and secondary schools across the length and breadth of our beautiful country.

Today digital skills have become an integral part of our daily lives as the world is oriented towards automation and digitisation in the quest to have a Smart world. It is estimated by ICT experts that about five (5) million traditional jobs will be lost by the year 2030, but to be replaced with ICT systems and jobs. This has instigated a global reawakening and the need to engage and reengage, realign conditions that will introduce our girls and young women to ICT much earlier in their lives.

“As we implement the Girls-in-ICT initiative and bridge the digital gender divide, it is important that we create the appropriate environment and policy realignment to sustain the interest of not only our young girls but their male counterparts as well.”

Hammering on this year’s theme, Dr. Gift Machengete, the Director-General of the Postal and Telecommunication Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ) emphasised the importance of safety and said his institution prioritises issues of Access and Online Safety.

He said POTRAZ has embarked on a number of initiatives aimed at enhancing ICT access to all especially those in rural and marginalised areas and especially to Women and Girls who have been left behind in the social dichotomy.

“We believe in inclusivity and in leaving no one behind, which is why we have been rolling out Community Information Centres (CICs) throughout the country, connecting schools, health care institutions, government departments, and police stations and also providing these with ICT gadgets among other projects.

“While our efforts are all-inclusive, statistics released by UN Women, however, show that women and girls use the internet 12.5 percent less than men and boys, with some 46 percent of boys accessing the internet on their phones, compared to 27 percent of girls. A study by UN Women and the ITU shows that girls access digital technology at a later age than boys and that their use of this technology is more often curtailed by their parents and guardians,” Dr. Machengete said.

Alluding to statistics on CIC usage provided by ZIMPOST on a weekly basis that also show that patronage of CICs is consistently dominated by males at an average of 70% compared to a mere 30% attendance by females, Dr. Machengete said programs such as the Girls in ICT Day go a long way in encouraging girls and young women to access and use ICTs which are now available to them as equally as they are available to their male counterparts.

“Such initiatives also go a long way in encouraging girls and young women to take up studies and careers in ICTs so that they meaningfully contribute to the digital economy and are not left behind in this digital revolution.

In this regard, I am happy and proud to announce that POTRAZ will be giving full scholarships to four young women from underprivileged backgrounds to study science subjects at University Level. The beneficiaries will be selected in consultation with tertiary institutions that have been asked to identify bright and deserving students to benefit,” Dr. Machengete added.

 

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Byron Adonis Mutingwende