Girls in ICT Day is an initiative backed by all ITU (International Telecommunication Union) Member states. Originally the International Telegraph Union is a specialized agency of the United Nations which is responsible for issues that concern information and communication technologies.
ICT refers to technologies that provide access to information through telecommunications. It is therefore similar to Information Technology (IT) but rather focuses primarily on communication technologies. These include; the Internet, wireless networks, cell phones, and other communication mediums.
In Africa and to be specific Uganda, this kind of technology amongst girls especially the rural girl child is so far beyond reach or of any knowledge while for the urban girl child it is most likely the contrary. I have had the privilege to indulge a few girls between the ages of 15- 30 years about technology especially a computer and internet too but their responses are quite vague although they express a strong urge to learn about computers and the internet.
The Girl Child, especially in the urban areas, has grasped the positives that come with ICTs in this world and built a keen interest in STEM(Science Technology, Engineering, and Math). I was privileged and honored to meet a few of such ladies last year during the MTN Innovations Award 2017 where we m’omulimisa SMS platform was nominated for best Agriculture App in Uganda. One of the apps built by a lady was Vouch Digital formerly known as M- Voucher that champions in digital platforms and digital payments. This was innovated by Evelyn Namara who also champion Girls in ICT at the Innovation Village Ntinda and mentors’ girls in technology to get involved, be resilient, and challenge the boys in regard to Tech-novation.
During training offered to the girl child I realized a lot of challenges limiting girls especially rural girls from getting involved in ICT programs. These barriers include;
- Lack of access to the internet which affects the ability to tap into the World Wide Web using supported gadgets, systems, and infrastructure and Internet availability which deters ability to utilize internet service in the presence of supporting gadgets, systems, and infrastructure). It is the government’s role to have these services extended to the rural areas as it’s a right for everyone to have access to the internet or else, the rural girl child will always be denied this.
- Connectivity; a fast access barrier for using ICTs is the lack of a mobile network or broadband internet network. In many rural areas, the basic infrastructure for ICT access is not yet present. A majority of Primary and Secondary schools in Uganda do not have connectivity or ICT equipment and traveling outside of the community to a network is expensive for most youth and in many cases, not possible or safe for girls and young women.
- Awareness; Even if there are basic access and connectivity, not everyone understands what mobile phone or the internet can do for them other than using a mobile phone to make and receive a phone call, the kind of information and services that can be accessed over the internet, or how this information can be used to improve livelihoods.
- Affordability: Combined costs of tools involved in ICT usage are quite overwhelming for a girl child especially one that is unemployed or relying on parents. For those staying in remote rural areas, the cost of traveling to find a network or internet café may be so costly.
- Attainability; Even if other barriers have been resolved, socio-economic and cultural issues such as gender discrimination and stereotypes around the girl child and girls with disabilities impact the efficient and effective use of ICT's.
On the flipside of ICTs, I believe along with my fellow Tech Geek Consultant friend Tomslin that TRUST is the lifeblood of the internet. Violations such as the recent Facebook-Cambridge Analytica scandal should worry policymakers and internet optimistic where 30 million personality profiles, constructed from 50 million Facebook users’ data were sold to Politicians to influence political elections.
How the internet evolves from here henceforth on its economic and social impact depends on users trusting the internet and its services altogether.
As I end my write up, I will quote Olivier Printout, CMO MTN Uganda; Technology presents a real opportunity for transformation of our economy and our nation and we must harness it.
Compiled by Pinno Ivan Louis - IT Consultant WOUGNET Eastern Uganda
What young people have to say
Twinokwikiriza Inea a third-year student at Kampala International University.
“Girls need to change attitude and eliminate the feeling of inferiority to boys because God created them equally”
According to Inea, the biggest barrier to girls succeeding in STEM is their attitude backed by stereotypes that some subjects are better done by boys. Although there is currently an increase in the number of girls perusing STEM subjects and carriers in Uganda, we should not ignore the fact that many are still left behind especially in the rural areas.
Financial constraints are also a key barrier as many young women today have innovative ideas and can build applications that can improve our communities’ status however they lack funds to support their initiatives.
On International Day of the girl in ICT, Inea calls upon the Government and all stakeholders to support ICT innovations and ideas created by women and girls because in the long run, it is of great benefit to Uganda as a Nation.
Salvah 21 Years old Girl pursuing a Bachelor's in Computer Science in Year 1 at Kampala International University.
“ICTs are interesting because they are futuristic”
Salvah has always had an interest in computer science and decided to peruse this in her education because she finds dealing with ICTs very interesting and simple.
She says it is her first time to hear about the International Day of the Girl in ICT however it is wonderful that a day like this is put aside to honor girls like her. Many girls would like to pursue such courses or be well vast with technologies but they lack gadgets and guidance which is a great challenge.
The boys may be more in her class but they are not a threat because the more she gets to interact with them, the more her passion is built as she aims at challenging them in all class projects.
Kenneth Niyibizi currently a first-year student at Kampala International University.
“Let more ladies inspire the girls, they should be tech instructors in schools, science teachers, and spearhead sensitization campaigns. This is the best way to inspire girls and build their passion for ICT”
After perusing a Diploma in ICT, Kenneth tutored ICT at Lake Bunyonyi S.S Buwama Island on Lake Bunyonyi in Western Uganda. He realized fewer girls were excelling however, the more they interacted with their male counterparts, the more their passion in ICT was built. Most of the girls considered ICT hard yet they had never tried it out and it is only after being exposed that they realize it is not as complex.
In Uganda, most ICT initiatives are strategically located in urban areas thus leaving the rural girl Behind. A few rural girls that have been introduced to computer studies have managed to outcompete boys for example in Lake Bunyonyi S.S Buwama. Access is therefore key and the Government should equip rural schools with Electricity and Computers to necessitate skill development of Girls in ICT.