ITU Puts Priority on Access, Safety for Girls in ICT, Says Males Dominate Females in Cyberspace

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Emma Okonji

As the world celebrates International Girls in ICT Day today, the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), the United Nations specialised agency responsible for driving innovations in Information and Communications Technology (ICT), has stressed the need for safety of girls online and for ubiquitous access to the internet.

According to ITU, the need for online safety and ubiquitous internet access for girls globally, became important because of the clear domination of men in cyberspace.

The global body said it would continue to partner in order to foster Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) learning, including engagement and careers for girls worldwide.

​Today, ITU is celebrating International Girls in ICT Day, which is observed annually during the last week of April, with a focus on ‘Access and Safety’ as key elements to engage the next generation with information and communications technology.

This year’s theme, ITU said, reflects the world’s shared interest in empowering youth and girls to safely benefit from an active digital life.

ITU said it recognises the need to ensure girls and women enjoy equal access to digital learning opportunities, particularly in least developed countries.

According to ITU’s latest data globally, 57 per cent of women use the internet compared to 62 per cent of men. Worldwide only 30 per cent of tech science and technology professionals are women. 

ITU Secretary-General, Houlin Zhao, said: “If women are unable to access the internet and do not feel safe online, they are unable to develop the necessary digital skills and engage in digital spaces, which diminishes their opportunities to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics related fields.

“Girls in ICT Day is a call to action to inspire the next generation of young women and girls to enter STEM careers. I call on all government, business, university leaders and others to do their utmost to support young women and girls and give them the chance to achieve their dreams.”

The global celebration and associated worldwide Girls in ICT Day events underline ITU’s commitment to encourage girls and young women everywhere to consider pursuing STEM career paths.

To date, over 600,000 girls and young women have taken part in more than 12,000 celebrations of Girls in ICT Day in 195 countries worldwide.

Addressing the need for girls to be part of the digital revolution, Director of ITU’s Telecommunication Development Bureau, Doreen Bogdan-Martin, said: “All over the world, girls and young women want to join the digital revolution. When we remove barriers of access and safety, women and girls can make remarkable contributions to and be empowered by ICTs. To put it simply: tech needs girls, and girls need tech.

“Through International Girls in ICT Day, we want to use the power of partnerships to stimulate solutions and innovation. We invite partners to join the Partner2Connect Digital Coalition to help bridge key gaps to ensure the active participation of girls in ICT related careers, and achieve our goal of fostering meaningful connectivity and digital transformation globally.”

ITU revealed that an interactive global dialogue on ICT access and safety for girls would take place today as part of the 2022 World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) Forum.

ITU also said its regional offices would be holding Girls in ICT Day events to encourage girls and young women everywhere to learn about technology and find STEM career paths.

During the regional virtual and hybrid events, which will hold in the Arab States, Africa, the Americas and Europe today, women regulators and ministers within the Network of Women for the World Telecommunication Development Conference (WTDC), will connect with young women to share their experiences and inspire them to continue or start a career in tech.

In Asia, Thailand’s National Broadcasting and Telecommunication Commission and the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society are working with the ITU Asia and the Pacific Regional Office to organize celebrations today as well as events and training programmes throughout June.

In the Americas, Generation Connect and the Network of Women for WTDC will collaborate to celebrate Girls in ICT Day. More events are planned in Argentina, Brazil, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Mexico and Nigeria to celebrate Girls in ICT Day.