As countries around the globe gear towards achieving the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), by 2030, there is still an existing gap in access to Information and Communiations Technology (ICT) education between men and women, boys, and girls.
The SDG goal five pushes countries to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls, but about eight years to go, many girls in rural communities of Ghana are still not having access to ICT education to acquire the necessary knowledge and skills.
This is due to a myriad of challenges including lack of technological devices, poor and frustrating internet connectivity, and power supply.
Gender equality is not only a fundamental human right, but a necessary foundation for a peaceful, prosperous, and sustainable world.
In fact, digitalization remains the new normal way of doing things, especially because of the outbreak of the novel Coronavirus Disease.
“I have realised that a mouse is not just the rodent which steals food, but can be used to drag and drop code blocks to create useful games and stories,” says Miss Hawau Imoro, a 14-year-old girl.
The form-two student of the Banda Islamic Junior High School had the opportunity to join 1,000 selected Basic School children to benefit from the 2022 Girls in ICT training programme organised by the Ministry of Communication and Digitalization (MoCD).
Surprisingly, Imoro, who says she has no prior knowledge or experience in the use of computers, could not hide her joy when she was crowned the overall winner of the Girls in ICT Training, after she and her other colleagues went through one-week intensive ICT training.
Taking away a laptop computer and GhC3,000 cash as her prize, Imoro who wears a deep smile on her face says her experience with the computer has changed her mind to become a nurse in future to pursue a career in ICT.
“My first day in a programming class was a bit confusing, I was wondering how I could do what the teachers were talking about. By the third day I have fallen in love with the scratch programme,” Imoro stated when she shared her experience with the Ghana News Agency (GNA).
“The wonders of dragging and dropping some blocks of code onto a stage to get some movements excited me,” she indicated.
Afterwards, Imoro said she put in her all saying, “little did I know I would be crowned the overall winner for the 2022 National Girls in ICT training in the whole Bono Region.”
From the training, Ms Imoro said she has accepted the challenge and would encourage her mates to take over the male dominance in the ICT sector in the country.
Like Ms Imoro, many other girls in rural Ghana have limited access to ICT facilities, but thanks to the MoCD which is implementing the Girls in ICT training programmes to bridge the gap.
Girls in ICT Initiative
The Girls-in-ICT initiative is one of the flagship programmes of the MoCD and is in line with the International Girls-in-ICT Day, an initiative introduced in 2012 and backed by all International Telecommunications Union (ITU) Member States.
It aims at encouraging and empowering girls and young women to consider studies and careers in ICT in the growing field of ICTs, enabling both girls and technology companies to reap the benefits of greater female participation in the ICT sector.
Target regions and beneficiaries
In all, 5000 girls from five regions including Bono, Ahafo, Savannah, Bono East and Northern Regions would be introduced to and trained in basic ICT skills and coding this year.
The training in coding will give the girls the opportunity to explore the world of technology, through the creation of websites, computer games, interactive arts, mobile apps, and animation stories, using various programming languages.
It forms part of the strategies to both ensure that the country achieves the SDGs five and Ghana’s ICT4AD Policy on bridging the gender digital divide.
Ghana has adopted the initiative and observed it on a regional basis.
It has already been celebrated in Greater Accra, Ashanti, Northern, Volta, Western, Western North, North East, Central and Oti Regions.
The MoCD through its agencies comprising the Ghana Investment Fund for Electronic Communications (GIFEC), National Communication Authority (NCA) and the Kofi Annan ICT Centre of Excellence are the implementers.
MTN Ghana, a leading telecommunication company in the country has set aside GHC10 million to support the Girls in ICT Training programme across the country for a period of three years.
Interestingly, over 60 per cent of the girls benefiting from the training have no experience in the use of computers.
Under the initiative, prizes including laptops and modems are awarded to girls who excel in the competition and ICT labs are also established in the schools of the girls who excelled.
The MoCD has already trained 200 teachers in Bono East and Bono Regions, as part of this year’s celebration for the sustainability of the programme in their various schools and 300 additional teachers would be trained in the Ahafo, Savannah and Northern Regions this year.
Speaking at a ceremony in Sunyani to climax the training in the Bono Region, Mrs Ursula Owusu-Ekuful, the Minister of Communication and Digitalization said the wonder of technology had made life easier.
She indicated as a game changer; the Ministry was determined to grow the nation’s digital economy for sustainable development.
The Sector Minister explained the rising trend of digital platforms around the world and underscored the need to build the knowledge of girls in ICT so that they would be well-positioned to use technology to find solutions to their problems.
Mrs Georgina Asare Fiagbenu, Senior Manager, Corporate Communications, MTN Ghana, emphasised the company’s commitment to continue to support the ‘Girls in ICT’ programme to benefit more girls in the country.
She said the MTN Ghana Foundation had invested much in the provision of ICT devices to advance the study of the subject in basic schools across the country.
Mrs Fiagbenu said MTN had prioritised quality network expansion to provide opportunities particularly for the rural population in the country to enjoy excellent digital services.
There is a substantial gap between men and women as well as children in Internet access and use in the country.
But there is no doubt that when women and girls have access to the Internet, they could start new businesses, sell products to new markets, find lucrative jobs and access online education as well as health and financial services.
This is exactly why GNA believes that the Girls in ICT training programme ought to be supported by corporate bodies to benefit from the training.
In fact, the government alone cannot shoulder the responsibility, considering the current economic stress the nation is going through and everybody must contribute his or her quota to sustain the Girls in ICT training initiative.
By so doing, the country would be well-positioned to achieve the set target for the UN SDGs Five of gender equality and empowerment of women and girls by 2030 and bridge the ICT gap between men and women and children in the country.
By Dennis Peprah