Rwanda has embarked on a drive to encourage women to pursue careers in ICT, with an overriding plan of bridging the gap between males and females in the industry.
Despite there being no official statistics, in comparative terms, of the males and females in the ICT sector, officials say that the sector remains mostly male-dominated.
The country considers the future of the ICT sector exciting as it promotes creativity, innovation and entirely new ways of working, interacting and learning that should appeal to women and men alike.
Recently more than 48 girls from different secondary schools across the country received training on the use of ICT’s at Gashora Girls Academy of Science and Technology in a programme dubbed Camp TechKobwa.
The programme focused on inspiring young women to become the next generation of Rwandan technology entrepreneurs by developing their skills and creativity in using technology.
The camp attracted young girls from G.S. Rurenge, E.S. Rugabano, E.S. Murunda, G.S. Saint Jerome Janja, G.S. Kibangu, T.T.C. Muramba and Gashora Girls Academy.
Speaking to The New Times yesterday, Clarisse Iribagiza, the CEO of HeHe Limited, a mobile technologies company said that traditionally, people think that technology is a man’s world but this perception has got to end because technology is beneficial to both men and women.
Iribagiza noted that the camp, dubbed ‘Girls in ICT Day’ has helped in driving girls to embrace ICT careers for instance a large number of girls have attended tech camps for training and most young girls in schools all over the country are involved in ICT related activities.
“No matter what career you want to pursue, technology still plays a key role, it’s very cross-cutting whether girls or boys ICT is beneficial. So women shouldn’t ignore it.”
Women in tech innovation
Several Rwandan women have made it into the tech innovation with local ICT start-ups like HeHe Ltd, OSCA Connect Ltd and the Shaking Sun among others having been founded by young women.
HeHe Ltd was established in 2010 and the company focuses on the mobile technological revolution, providing new ways for businesses and organisations to reach their audience fast, affordably and conveniently. It was founded by Iribagiza together with other young ICT entrepreneurs. OSCA Connect Ltd, founded by Esther Kunda and colleagues also dwells on providing mobile application tools that connect farmers to markets.
Gender gap persists
Despite the fact that the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) is encouraging women to consider pursuing ICT career, the perception in most countries that the ICT sector is a male-dominated industry still persists.
According to ITU, for the past 10 years, technology-related disciplines were predominantly for males, and females opted for arts disciplines due to misguided school-age career counselling and a dearth of inspirational female role models.
Women are half the world’s population and the world’s talent, but there’s a persistent gender gap in the ICT field.
To promote gender equality in ICT, ITU introduced “Girls in ICT Day” an awareness-raising initiative designed to recognise women’s contribution to the tech industry and promote ICT careers to a new generation of girls.
Since its inception in 2010, the global momentum around ‘Girls in ICT Day’ continues to grow, with 1,300 events organised in 2012, reaching over 30,000 school-age girls, and around 100 countries took part in 2013 occasion.
Every fourth Thursday of April, ITU and the global technology community observe ‘Girls in ICT Day’.
According to the Minister for Youth and ICT, Jean Philbert Nsengimana, a career in ICT what everybody should go for; either girls or boys because the world is now revolving on technology.
“Our focus is to encourage girls to join ICT industry and this is done through awareness campaigns and changing their attitude towards technology career,” he said.
The minister noted that, the government through the Ministry of Education is encouraging more girls to study tech subjects, gain tech degrees and pursue tech careers.
According to ITU, only 21 of the Fortune 500 companies are run by women. There are only 16 women ICT Ministers out of ITU’s 193 member state governments, and only 10 of the world’s 160 independent ICT regulatory authorities are headed by a woman.
The ITU Secretary-General Dr Hamadoun Touré is quoted in a statement: “ICT is a huge enabler for women in all communities – especially in the developing world. Even a simple mobile phone enables women to stay in touch with family and friends.”
He was speaking last week at the opening of the Fifth International NGO’s Forum in Economic, Social and Cultural Rights of Women in Geneva-Switzerland.
Touré noted that ICTs remain one of the best mechanisms for increasing women’s safety and security, and protecting them against violence – and in particular domestic violence.
“In a world where over 95% 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 science, technology, engineering and maths, and we need to get more girls taking an interest in ICT careers,” he said.