Nº 3 2013 > Editorial
Celebrating Girls in ICT Day 2013 in Brussels and in Geneva
Dr Hamadoun I. Touré, ITU Secretary‑General
Congratulations to all our members celebrating Girls in ICT Day on 25 April 2013. Last year, more than 1300 events were organized in 90 countries around the world — and my guess is that we will beat that record this year.
Such events play an important role in convincing girls that heading into science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) careers isn’t dull, geeky or nerdy, but a smart career move with excellent prospects.
On Girls in ICT Day this year, I will be attending a number of inter-related special events in Brussels, and ITU will be holding its own event in Geneva.
Parliamentary Hearing on Women in ICT
In Brussels, the European Parliament, the European Commission and ITU are joining forces to celebrate Girls in ICT Day 2013. I will have the honour of addressing the Parliamentary Hearing on Women in ICT, along with Neelie Kroes, Vice President of the European Commission, and one of our Broadband Commissioners.
We are all aware of the power of ICT in every aspect of our lives. For example, women’s access to health care and education has expanded enormously through ICT. We can deliver basic education in areas such as literacy, entrepreneurship and e‑agriculture — and given that women do most of the world’s work, this offers enormous potential for improving the lives of all the world’s people.
Attracting girls to technology
To benefit from ICT, women need to be digitally literate, and Girls in ICT Day is a powerful platform for raising awareness of this need. I am proud to report that ITU’s long-standing partnership with the Telecentre.org Foundation is on track to train one million women in basic ICT skills — and already by March 2013 we were past the two-thirds mark, with 680 000 women from 147 organizations trained in 85 countries.
In a world where more than 95 per cent of all jobs now have a digital component, and where there is a large and growing skills shortage in the ICT sector, we need to get more girls involved in STEM, and we need to get more girls taking an interest in ICT careers.
There are still only 21 of the Fortune 500 companies — and only 42 of the Fortune 1000 companies — run by women. We have far to go before we achieve parity.
This also remains true for ITU; it was 1932 before we had our first woman delegate at a major conference, and 1965 — our centenary year — before we had a female head of delegation.
But I am an optimist, and I am convinced that the hundreds of events taking place on Girls in ICT Day this year will make a real difference by encouraging more girls to study technical subjects and pursue careers in technology.
I am pleased that the Broadband Commission for Digital Development — which was created three years ago by ITU and UNESCO — has set up a Working Group on Broadband and Gender, in answer to a direct appeal from Geena Davis, to harness the power of broadband to empower women and girls.
Tech Needs Girls Awards and networking lunch
Also in Brussels, as part of the Girls in ICT Day celebrations, I will be presenting the Tech Needs Girls Awards. Companies such as Cisco and Intel have made these awards possible, and have demonstrated their outstanding commitment to seeing women and girls take up ICT careers and pursue technological excellence.
We launched the Tech Needs Girls campaign just over a year ago and the response has been amazing. We have heard from women who recognize the importance of the core messages surrounding the campaign, and from girls who had no idea how dynamic, creative, flexible — and indeed helpful and valuable to the community — a career in ICT could be.
Women2020 breakfast and food for thought
I will also be attending a breakfast meeting in Brussels organized by Women2020. This will be an opportunity to discuss ways of promoting women-led innovation and enterprise, and women entrepreneurs in Europe.
Given the consistent projections that there will be an ongoing shortage of qualified workers in the ICT sector, this represents a tremendous opportunity for women, not only to help solve the talent shortage, but also to be empowered by new career opportunities in a sector that promises excellent employment prospects.
At ITU we are looking at ways of increasing the number of women pursuing careers in ICT, as well as at ways of leveraging ICT themselves to increase the social and economic empowerment of women and girls.
ICT Discovery at ITU headquarters
In Geneva, we ourselves will host an event for Girls in ICT Day at ITU’s new museum, the ICT Discovery. Girls from local schools will be welcomed to ICT Discovery and will attend coding, app and web-design workshops. They will also have the opportunity to meet female ICT professionals and hear their stories.