Access to ICTs can facilitate generational change, exposing young women to new ideas and connections, engaging them in the digital economy, and promoting gender equality. Yet, women are underrepresented in the ICT field around the world. Not only are there an estimated 200 million fewer women online than men, but there are fewer women in the ICT workforce, which is compounded by the lack of female University graduates from ICT related-degrees.
Empowering girls to choose a career in ICTs can be a major accelerator of socio-economic development at the national level. Closing the tech industry’s female leadership gap could generate a ‘global productivity boost’ of USD 430-530 billion, according to a new report from Intel and Dalberg, and the European Commission estimated that bringing more European women into the ICT field could boost the EU’s economy by Euro 9 billion a year alone. Encouraging women to the field could also help bridge the skills gap, with up to 825,000 jobs predicted to go unfilled in Europe by 2020.
To benefit from these opportunities, it is critical that we invest in young women and girls online.
Training young girls: Tanzania case study
Understanding this, Tanzania used its Universal Service Access Fund for the digital inclusion of women and girls – the first nation in Africa to do so. They have developed a national competition for International Girls in ICT Day, to train young women and girls with mobile apps development skills.
The Universal Communication Service Access Fund (UCSAF) Tanzanian Girls in ICT programme is an initiative working to provide basic mobile apps development skills to young women and girls in hopes to develop their interest in technology and engineering early in their careers.
The programme uses the MIT App Inventor Tool, a tool designed specifically to teach children how to develop mobile apps. This easy-to-use tool ensures that girls across the country get the same basic introduction to computer science.
The three day event culminated in a national competition.
Day one was an introduction to the basic ICT tools and computer hardware and software to build a foundational understanding. The young girls are also introduced to the MIT App Inventor Software.
On day two, the students dove deeper into the MIT App Inventor Software tool, working on three programmes in a team of five: ‘Hello World Progam’; ‘Basic Program’; and starting a simple project.
In groups of five, the students developed a simple mobile app to submit to the regional competition on day three. The last two hours are dedicated to pitching their projects, where the winning team has the opportunity to present their submission at the national level.
The winners of the regional competitions were then sent to Addis, Ethiopia, with all expenses paid to participate in the Girls in ICT celebrations, organized by ITU Regional Office for Africa in collaboration with AUC, UNECA, UN Women and sponsored by Huawei Technologies PLC Ethiopia.
ITU News / Lucy Spencer
Note from ITU: Universal Service Fund and Digital Inclusion for All 2013 report provides further advice and guidance about using the Universal Service Fund for digital inclusion.
The ITU International Girls in ICT Day initiative seeks to encourage more girls and young women to take up ICT careers and studies. For more information see www.girlsinict.org.