Digital Inclusion: Bridging the Gender Gap in technology
PRESS STATEMENT: FIRST EDITION OF THE GIRLTECHAFRICA ROUNDTABLE DISCUSSION
The GirlTechAfrica Roundtable Discussion was facilitated by AfriGrowth Foundation to serve as a platform to find sustainable solutions to the growing challenge of gender digital inclusion. This forum was created to investigate and share vital knowledge on how best to increase girls’ access to digital literacy and interest in pursuing ICT-related careers in Africa. This Roundtable Discussion brought together resource persons, discussants and participants from notable and credible organizations in private, public and non-profit sectors active in the Technology industry to discuss ways to bridge the gender gap in the ICT sector in Africa.
The GirlTechAfrica Roundtable Discussion, anchored on the theme- Digital Inclusion: Bridging the gender gap in technology, which held on Thursday June 25, 2020, at 2.00 pm was moderated by Adepoyigi John (ICT Programs Officer, AfriGrowth Foundation). Invited resource persons included, Mrs. Dayo Keshi, President and Founder, AfriGrowth Foundation, Martha Oyanta Daniel (Eagles Advocacy, Nigeria), Nuria Salan (President Catalan Technology Society, Spain), Obani Sophia (Child and Green Foundation, Nigeria), Blanca Pichardo (Havas Media Group, Spain), Dr. Vincent Olatunji (National Information Development Agency, Nigeria), Baratang Mia (GirlHype, South Africa), Nair De Sousa (AfroSolutions, Angola), Uyoyoghene Traore (Your New Age Income, France) and Adebola Tolulope Adeoti (Ladies Connect Initiative, Nigeria).
Presently digital transformation provides new avenues for the economic empowerment of women and can contribute to greater gender equality. Despite tremendous advances women professionals have made over the years in technology; they still face challenges, which range from an uncomfortable sense of being viewed as less rational, excessively sensitive, and less capable of performing certain activities, to the difficulty of reconciling work with their personal lives. The digital gender divide is also fuelled by digital illiteracy and Socio-cultural norms that lead to gender-based digital exclusion.
The GirlTechAfrica Roundtable Discussion created an environment where these issues were openly discussed with constructive conversations on how young African girls can navigate the hurdles placed by gender disparity and build their interests in the digital world. Mrs. Dayo Keshi in her opening remarks stated the need to engage more girls in the digital world and technology. She encouraged professional women in technology to take the lead in this noble cause; adopt a multiplier impact, which will be geared at empowering more girls to participate fully ICT sector and pursue technological-related careers.
The Roundtable Discussion was highly interactive and participatory with laudable inputs from the resource persons. In tackling the barriers to digital gender inclusion in underprivileged communities, the resource persons identified some root causes, which include, lack of awareness, poverty, limited accessibility to Internet connection, lapse confidence, fluctuating electricity supply, lack of access to digital education and training and poor orientation. Sophia Obani of Child and Green Foundation, Nigeria advocated for the need to break the mental barriers impeding the interest of girls in technology. Nair De Sousa of AfroSolutions, Angola opined that in order to break the barrier of having a low participation of women in technology, there should be an increase in awareness in partnership with families in communities, which would enhance the interest and involvement of girls in tech. Baratang Miya of GirlHype, South Africa said that empowering women to engage in Technology will improve the economy of the society, which will culminate in sustainable development. In postulating veritable solutions for enhanced digital inclusion of young African women, the resource persons advocated that credible programs should be developed to increase the education and training of more girls in digital literacy; improve awareness; enhance accessibility to the internet for girls in the grassroots; connect professional women in Technology to serve as mentors for girls; make readily available the access to digital materials and alleviate poverty in underprivileged communities. Nuria Salan of Catalan Technology Society, Spain presented mentoring as the best tool to bridge gender gap in digital inclusion. Blanca Pichardo of Havas Media Group, Spain advocated for more activities poised at encouraging girls to study Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) and develop their confidence and self-esteem.
As regards the role of digital gender inclusion in national sustainable and economic development, Dr. Vincent Olatunji of National Information Development Agency, Nigeria opined that increased participation of women in the design of information technology will improve the significant shortfall in human capital in the sector. Adebola Tolulope Adeoti, a legal practitioner with Ladies Connect Initiative, Nigeria informed all that there’s no provision in any constitution that prevents the participation of women in technology. Currently, the Child Act focuses on the empowerment of girl children. She stressed the need to go beyond just enacting laws to enforcing them, especially for girls and women in Africa. There was also the need to enlighten women on their digital rights. Martha Oyanta Daniel of Eagles Advocacy, Nigeria said that digital inclusion was presently most important for girls in the rural areas. She advocated for more partnership and synergy involving the government, most especially local government, designated government agencies and civil society organizations. She stressed that more teachers and facilitators should be trained as ICT resource persons to champion the digital education of girls in the grassroots.
As the curtains were drawn on the Roundtable Discussion, Mrs. Dayo Keshi thanked all the resource persons for their plausible inputs. She said that the conversation on gender digital inclusion was a continuous one, which should be sustained and championed by women that have built distinguished careers in the ICT sector. She informed all that AfriGrowth Foundation, via its GirlTechAfrica Project has availed girls in public junior secondary schools access to ICT training and digital literacy. In closing, she made a call for improved partnership and said that AfriGrowth Foundation will remain steadfast and resolute in its quest to bridge the gender gap in Africa.