The Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and its partners have launched a friendlier and comprehensive “Learning Girls in ICT Initiative” that is expected to help bridge the continental digital divide.
The launch of the “Learning Girls in ICT Initiative” marked the 10th anniversary of the International Day of Girls in ICT which is commemorated annually on 22nd April to help bridge the gender digital divide.
“Digital skills offer our girls the power to change the world,” Jean-Paul Adam, the Director of the ECA’s Technology, Climate Change and Natural Resources Division, said as he officially opened the webinar.
“Digitalisation offers a variety of opportunities for female empowerment and a more equal female participation in labour markets, financial markets, and entrepreneurship.”
To unveil the initiative, ECA and its sister agencies, the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), UN Women and bilateral partners, jointly hosted a webinar under the theme “Connected African Girls, Creating Brighter Futures”.
“With the lowest rate of internet penetration, the African region has the widest digital gender gap in the world where only 22.5 per cent of women use the Internet, compared to 33.8 per cent of men,” Mr Adam noted at the webinar.
“This gender gap is growing in some regions across the continent, reinforcing gender inequalities by denying women and girls’ opportunities to access education, find better-paid jobs, and start new businesses.”
According to one of the main organisers of the forum, Mactar Seck of the ECA’s TCND division, the “Learning Girls in ICT-Initiative” is an e-learning web platform, which is designed to offer essential technology education and skills to young women and girls.
“Women have a critical role to play in ICTs in Africa,” said Wandia Riunga of the ECA as she explained that the initiative was aimed at promoting Africa’s integration, generate inclusive economic growth and stimulate job creation.
Mr Seck also explained that the e-knowledge portal was also expected to help bridge the digital divide, eradicate poverty for the continent’s socio-economic development, ensure Africa’s ownership of modern tools of digital management, and boost its burgeoning knowledge economy.
“Through this launch the ECA is helping to build a bridge that will encourage more women and girls in the continent to take on science, technology, engineering and mathematics,” he said.
“We need to broaden the horizons of technology and do away with the stigma that science, technology and mathematics are only for boys,” Salma Abbasi, who moderated much of the webinar, noted in her presentation.
“With the benefit of being the youngest continent in the world, Africa needs to address the gaps and access to connectivity and leverage on the abilities and agility of youth to bring more women into technology.”