Pacific Island Nation strengthens commitment to promoting tech studies to girls & leveraging digital skills to boost sustainable development
ITU’s annual global Girls in ICT Day celebration will be held next year in the Independent State of Samoa. The advocacy event, which raises visibility of the importance of attracting women and girls to information and communication (ICT) studies and careers, was established in 2010 by ITU’s Plenipotentiary Conference and is held around the world each year on the fourth Thursday in April.
ICTs are a key driver of gender equality and women’s empowerment. With improved access to these transformative technologies, women and girls can benefit from increased employment and business opportunities. In coming years there will be tens of millions of jobs for people with advanced digital skills, and nearly all jobs will have a digital component.
A global effort to help bridge the digital gender divide by encouraging young women and girls to pursue studies and careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), Girls in ICT Day has enjoyed unprecedented success as a global movement. Over the past decade, more than 377 000 girls and young women have taken part in over 11 400 celebrations in 171 countries.
The 2020 event, which will be held on 23 April in the Samoan capital of Apia, will be the first time ITU’s own Girls in ICT Day celebration has been held in the southern hemisphere. With the theme Expand horizons, change attitudes, the event is expected to welcome some 1000 local school-age girls from Samoa and abroad for a day of fun, interactive tech workshops, talks by industry experts, and high-level discussions around ways to boost regional capacity building for digital skills development. The global event in Apia will also feature winners from national competitions across the region.
“Girls in ICT Day is a call to action to inspire the next generation of girls and young women to learn more about the amazing opportunities and careers offered by ICTs,” said ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao. “By bringing next year’s global celebration to Samoa, ITU shows our commitment to pressing for progress for gender equality everywhere, including in Small Island Developing States and Landlocked Developing Countries.”
“The Government and people of Samoa are excited about the opportunity to host the global ITU family, as well as the Blue Pacific family, on this special day for girls in ICT. Hosting an international event of this magnitude in Samoa will provide the opportune platform to showcase the empowerment of women at all levels and help them participate and become leaders in all aspects of ICT, ultimately ensuring a solid foundation upon which an economy can flourish and prosper,” said His Excellency Afamasaga Lepuia’i Rico Tupai, Minister of Communications and Information Technology of Samoa. “There is a Samoan proverb, ‘E au le ina’ilau a Tamaita’i’ which translates as ‘women are more than capable of achieving the impossible’. This proverb speaks to the strong spirit of women to achieve greatness in all areas of development.”
Every year, Girls in ICT Day events are held by schools, youth groups, civic organizations and government agencies in all world regions. In recent times, Girls in ICT Day events have expanded from one-day events to ongoing global programmes designed to teach girls about ICTs throughout the year. Samoa, through the Office of the Regulator in collaboration with ITU and the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, has been celebrating Girls in ICT Day as an annual event since 2015.
ITU provides organizers of events and initiatives with a pack of resources to help shape and promote their activities. Events around the world are progressively ‘pinned’ on the ITU International Girls in ICT Day online map – creating an interactive global display of the many ‘tech & gender’ happenings that take place around the world each year. Efforts by Small Island Developing States to strengthen teaching of ICT skills to girls has been gaining momentum in recent years, as nations seek to leverage new economic opportunities offered by digital platforms.
“Girls in ICT Day has grown into one of ITU’s most successful global campaigns, so I am delighted that next year we will have the chance to reach out to girls in the Pacific region to show them how a career in tech could change their lives,” said Doreen Bogdan-Martin, Director of ITU’s Telecommunication Development Bureau (BDT), which leads the global Girls in ICT Day initiative. “Technology is one of the most powerful tools we have for empowering women and girls. An ICT career gives girls the chance to be at the heart of the world’s most exciting and fastest-growing industry. And the ICT industry needs women to play an equal role in the creation, design and implementation of the devices and platforms that are becoming indispensable to the way we live.”
ITU’s own 2019 event, held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, featured a day-long programme of hands-on workshops for school-age girls; high-level panels with speakers from government, the African Union, academia, and entrepreneurial women in the tech sector; and interactive dialogues with nearly 200 participating girls from local schools. It also featured an additional full-day site visit to two local schools to talk with teachers and girls.
ITU and the Office of the Regulator in Samoa are already in the preparation phase for the 2020 celebration, with plans to hold a two-day pre-event capacity-building workshop for participants from Samoa and across the Pacific region.