by Kevon Browne
St. Kitts and Nevis (WINN): In remarks by CARICOM Secretary-General Dr. Carla Barnett on the occasion of Girls in Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Day 2023 emphasised the equity gaps still present in ICT fields.
“While there are signs of progress all around the world since we met last year, the ITU reports in 2022 that the power and transformational potential of Internet access and use is not equally distributed. Of the estimated 2.7 billion people currently unconnected, the majority are women and girls. The digital gender gap continues to expand in many developing countries, creating a need to support digital gender equality. Adolescents are growing up in a world in which technology, migration, climate change, and conflict are reshaping their society. Youths aged 15 to 24 years are the driving force of connectivity, which 75 per cent of young people worldwide are now able to use the internet.”
The Secretary-General made those remarks at the regional online event on April 27, 2023, where she said for 2022, 63 per cent of women worldwide were using the internet when compared to 69 per cent of men.
“This gender gap is even more concerning in lower-income nations in which 21 per cent of women are online compared to 32 per cent of men, a figure that has not improved since 2019. According to experts, the digital gender gap can be minimised by building digital skills and promoting ICT education for girls and young women while supporting their participation in technology development, local content creation and ICT innovation. Studies across the world show that young people need four types of skills as they advance to 2030 – foundational, transferable or life skills, job related and digital skills. CARICOM continues to work to bolster the policy environment to teach and foster these skills.”
The theme for Girls in ICT Day was “Digital Skills for Life”.
CARICOM celebrated the day with more than 40 workshops to encourage more girls to pursue Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) to bolster the region’s ICT leaders.
CARICOM has several regional initiatives to increase the number of girls who chose ICT as a career path.
“Some of these initiatives include the CARICOM Single ICT Space Roadmap and Work Plan, the CARICOM Human Resource Development Strategy, and the CARICOM Girls in ICT Partnership Action Plan. Other initiatives include instituting the CARICOM Digital Skills Task Force and ongoing urgent work in the Caribbean Association of National Training Authorities (CANTA) to develop regional technical and vocational education and training courses, standards and frameworks. There is also an ICT Sector Gap Analysis Project that started this year, which will give us real-time data on how we are performing as a region and the existing gaps. I am happy to share that the CARICOM Girls in ICT Partnership will be launching a Career Webinar series in July 2023, which will offer access to educational resources and training to bolster capacity building.”
On St. Kitts, the Ministry of Communications, in collaboration with the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), hosted a development forum on April 27 for female students across St. Kitts to prepare and equip young girls with the necessary skills to thrive in the digital sphere with exposure to graphic design, robotics and web design.
Leading up to the observance of International Girls in ICT Day 2023, the Department of Information Technology St. Kitts hosted a number of activities, including a Canva poster competition catering to primary and secondary students and a Best in IT Game Show for high school students.
The Government Information Service, ahead of Girls in ICT Day, shared a video where three young women interning with the National ICT Centre spoke of their experience, interest and benefits of ICT.