Empowering girls in ICT

THERE was absolute silence in the hall at Monte Cassino Mission in Macheke during the Girls In ICT Day commemorations as guest of honour, Nyaradzo Mavindidze, spoke to the female pupils drawn from Mashonaland East province’s nine districts.

BY JAIROS SAUNYAMA

So motivating was her speech that many young girls were inspired to consider taking up ICT, a field that is mainly dominated by males.

“It is high time for girls to get out of the comfort zone and follow their dreams. It is possible for them to achieve their dreams. There is need to empower the girls with ICTs, so that they can research on what they want to do in life. It is possible for most of them to consider studying and choosing ICT careers,” Mavindidze, who owns the famous Avodah Consultancy company, said.

Girls in ICT Day is a global initiative aimed at raising awareness among girls and young women about the importance of digital skills for a successful professional career in all sectors and encouraging them to consider studies and careers in information and communication technologies (ICT).

International Telecommunication Union (ITU) Sadc representative, Chali Tumelo said it was high time to consider girls and people living with disabilities in ICTs for the development of nations.

“Despite all the progress made during past years, the digital divide still remains and is compounded by disparities and inequalities in access, use and skills between regions, between individual countries and within countries, in particular between urban, rural and underserved areas and between women and men, as well as in the availability of accessible and affordable ICTs, in particular for the empowerment of women and girls, persons with disabilities and other persons with specific needs,” she said.

Tumelo said an inclusive information society should take into account the needs of women and girls, persons with disabilities and other persons with specific needs, and the needs of children in the use of telecommunications.

The existence of ICT infrastructure is still less in rural areas, where a number of girls live.

Zimbabwe’s population consists of 54% women, with a large chunk of them still lagging behind as far as ICTs are concerned.

“The ITU reiterates its commitment to digital inclusiveness, leaving no one behind in the digital economy, but to empower people and society for sustainable development and enable the positive use of Artificial Intelligence for all,” Tumelo said.

In a bid to support empowering girls in ICTs, in 2016, the government started the science, technology, engineering and mathematics [Stem] programme, which saw a number of female students benefiting.

However, a number of girls, especially in the rural areas, are yet to use computers due to lack of ICT infrastructures.

Georgina Chingonzo, a director in the ICT and Cyber Security ministry, said in a bid to take ICTs across the country, the government has established more than 70 community information centres, among other initiatives, in the rural areas.

Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz) director-general, Gift Machengete called upon ICT operators to consider gender and location in their activities.

“While we recognise, with great appreciation, the efforts by our operators to meet their roll out obligations we remain aware of the urgent need for the ICT sector to deal with legacy issues of location and gender-based digital divides, among other traditional setbacks. I call upon operators to do more in providing connectivity and to do more in universalising broadband,” he said.

Officially launching the Zimbabwe National Policy for ICT and the Zimbabwe Innovation drive in March this year, President Emmerson Mnangagwa said all sectors in the economy should be moving towards e-platforms.

“ICT must be viewed as an economic enabler for the development and establishment of sector appropriate solutions with comprehensive breath, depth, flexibility and applicability. To this end, the importance of the policy will go a long way towards making the information technology revolution the basis for ultimately transforming Zimbabwe into an e-society,” he said.

Meanwhile, the government, through Potraz, is disbursing computers and laptops across the country as part of the e-learning programme.

Girls In ICT Day takes place every year on the fourth Thursday of April since 2011.

With the number of young girls now studying technology-related disciplines in decline in most countries worldwide, ITU is committed to championing the catalytic role a tech career can play in creating exciting, far-reaching opportunities for women and girls.

However, according to Mavindize, a number of girls have developed a tendency of abusing ICTs through social media platforms instead of development oriented activities.

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