Fostering Digital Inclusion in Bridging the Gender Gap in Technology

The conversation on Gender Digital Inclusion is a continuous one, which should be sustained and championed by women that have built distinguished careers in the ICT sector”

Mrs. Dayo Keshi, President, AfriGrowth Foundation (May 26, 2020)

On Wednesday, May 26, 2021, AfriGrowth Foundation successfully facilitated the Second Edition of the Girl Tech Africa Online Roundtable anchored on the theme- Fostering Digital Inclusion in Bridging the Gender Gap in Technology. AfriGrowth Foundation believes that ICT skills hold a key place in enabling girls and young women to participate successfully in the Information based Economy of the Twenty-First Century. This Online Roundtable Discussion brought together resource persons that have distinguished themselves in the ICT sector, locally and internationally to discuss and share vital knowledge on how to engage more girls and women in the digital economy and the diverse ways digital transformation provides new avenues for the economic empowerment of women.

The resource persons and speakers included, Mrs. Dayo Keshi, President and Founder, AfriGrowth Foundation, Oreoluwa Lesi, Founder Women’s Technology Empowerment Center, Dr. Vincent Olatunji from the National Information Development Agency, Nigeria, Uyoyoghene Ugherughe, Pedagogy Manager and Digital marketer, Open Classrooms France, and Blessing Ashi, representing Diwura Oladepo, Executive Director, Technology for Social Change and Development Initiative. The main objective of the Online Roundtable Discussion was to proffer credible solutions, which will be driven by tripartite partnership of stakeholders in the public, private and non-profit sectors that will culminate in improving digital inclusion of girls and women.

In her opening remarks, Mrs. Dayo Keshi, the host and President, AfriGrowth Foundation stated that digital gender imbalance is most evident, based on recent statistics and data. Global statistics released by UNESCO Institute for Statistics reveal that women worldwide pursuing careers in science and technology are only 28% and just 30% of professionals in the sciences in Sub-Saharan Africa are women. Statistics obtained by National Information Technology Development Agency have shown that women’s participation in ICT in Nigeria is less than 24%. She said AfriGrowth Foundation designed Girl Tech Africa as a signature project focused on improving digital literacy and promoting digital inclusion of women in Africa, as well as enhancing the interest of African girls and young women to pursue careers in the ICT Sector and increase the number female-owned technology businesses.

She said the time was imminent for a more collaborative effort towards developing and implementing interventions, which improve current digital literacy for secondary school girls, build the interest of girls and young women to pursue ICT careers; increase the number and viability of female-owned technology businesses and equip more women entrepreneurs into using technology strategically to leverage economic opportunities for their businesses.

Mrs. Dayo Keshi opined that AfriGrowth Foundation is opened to forging effective partnership and collaboration that will culminate in positively positioning more girls and young women to engage in the ever-growing ICT sector and asserted that at the end of the Roundtable Discussion, veritable solutions, which will enhance digital inclusion of girls and young women would be identified and adopted for collective implementation.

The Roundtable Discussion was highly strategic 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, few female ICT role models, high cost of access to technology, negative perception, poverty/affordability, poor electricity supply, negative cultural and social factors, stereotyping, lapse understanding of the value of technology, lapse knowledge about technology careers, lack of ICT skills, limited accessibility to Internet connection, lack of access to digital education and training and poor orientation.

Oreoluwa Lesi, Founder Women’s Technology Empowerment Center advocated for early exposure of girls to technology, as a viable foundation for them to build an interest in the ICT sector. She suggested that need for more digital literacy programs for girls, which will build their ICT skills. She opined that for such programs to be more effective, they should be designed to engage only girls in a safe space for learning. She also said that forum should be created for exceptional women that have distinguished themselves in technology to interact, encourage and mentor girls to pursue careers in the ICT sector.

Uyoyoghene Ugherughe, Pedagogy Manager and Digital marketer, Open Classrooms France stressed the need to enhance value orientation, premised on establishment of Digital clubs for girls in schools and more sensitization programs. She equally called for more collaboration and partnership between NGOs, Telecommunication companies, ICT influencers and ICT training institutions.

Dr. Vincent Olatunji from the National Information Development Agency commenced his contribution from a statistical point of view. He said Nigeria hosts Africa’s biggest technology market and accounts for 23% of internet users in Africa with 122 million people online in December 2018. Currently the ratio of Nigerian male workers to female workers in ICT still stands at 4 to 1. In respect of the Federal Government’s efforts towards Digital Inclusion of Nigerian Women and Girls, it has launched the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy (NDEPS) 2020-2030, part of which NITDA is also ensuring digital inclusion of traditionally excluded citizens especially women in rural areas.

Presently, in order to harness the benefits of digital economy, NITDA, embarked on women technopreneurship capacity building across the 6 geopolitical zones training 100 women in each zone. The capacity building programme is aimed at closing the Gender Digital Divide, promote job creation, financial inclusion, and provide women with the necessary skills and tools to participate in the digital economy. He stated that NITDA’s Digital Inclusion policy will ensure 30% involvement of women and youths in all strata of digital economy.

Blessing Ashi, Programs Team Lead, Technology for Social Change and Development Initiative said that empowering women to engage in the ICT sector 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; make readily available the access to the acquisition of digital skills for women to build livelihoods in the ICT sector and alleviate poverty in underprivileged communities.

As the curtains were drawn on the Roundtable Discussion, Mrs. Dayo Keshi thanked all the resource persons for their feasible inputs. She informed all that AfriGrowth Foundation, via its Girl Tech Africa Project has availed girls in public junior secondary schools access to ICT training and digital literacy. In closing, she made a call for a more collective partnership and said that AfriGrowth Foundation will remain steadfast and resolute in its quest to bridge the gender gap in Africa. 

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