Girls encouraged to take up ICT

SHARE   |   Sunday, 10 May 2015   |   By Keitebe Kgosikebatho

Sectors such as ICT has over time been dominated by men in Botswana although efforts have since been made to bridge the gap, the inequalities still persists. A panel of four local women who work in the ICT sector in Botswana recently told attendants at a panel discussion organized by Botswana Innovation Hub to commemorate Women in ICT day that working in the IT industry in Botswana is still viewed by many as a reservation for males. They narrated how as women they had to work twice as much to prove that they were as qualified or even better than their male counterparts.
One panelist, A programme developer at Orange Botswana stated that as one of the few women in her department, she was always sidelined by her male colleagues but said in her quest to get due recognition, she always impose her presence and demands that she be treated equally. With time she says her colleagues are starting to recognise her. Had she kept back she probably would have later been branded incompetent and underperforming and subsequently fired.
Beauty Mokgothu who works for First National Bank Botswana as The  head of e-solutions Business told attendants at the Girls in ICT commemorations that by virtue of their  care giver role and the game changer element they naturally have,  women if highly involved in ICT could even use technology to address their needs. “ It could be fascinating for a woman to develop an application that would remind them about their menstrual cycle and other issues of reproductive health, men don’t find such issues interesting,” she said.
In Botswana women constitute a higher percentage of the country’s population but the number has unfortunately  failed to translate into  their visibility in the country’ socio economic structure. Women for example represent less than a quarter of the country’s general assembly and the cabinet, positions which enables one to be a policy maker.
In 1985, a special commission of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) released what is commonly known as “The Maitland Report,” expounding upon the impact of telecommunications as “an engine of growth and a major source of employment and prosperity,” particularly in developed economies.
The commission’s focus concerned the growing division in telecommunications access between advanced economies and developing nations, and the report presented detailed recommendations for closing this “digital divide” with the aim of accelerating the positive impact of telecommunications for all citizens of the world.
One recommendation of the Maitland report emphasised the focus on closing the gender gap in ICTs. According to the report a wide range of economic and cultural influences drives these gaps, but increasing female participation in ICTs was highlighted as it could help spread more benefits to lower-income households.
Women have always argued  that for everything that their male counterparts do, they have to double the efforts to prove themselves. The IT sector as arguably the fastest growing sector has not been able to deviate from this trend either. The  figures are well known:  In America for example, At Apple 20 percent of tech jobs are held by women and at Google, only 17 percent.
In the United states, research have revealed that One of the reasons so few women work in ICT is that few choose to study computer science or engineering. Only 18 percent of computer science graduates in the United States are women, down from 37 percent in 1985.
The WTF Global IT Report 2015 states that the Macroeconomic evidence of the impacts of ICTs on growth at the national level is mounting. According to the report a landmark study by the World Bank in 2009 demonstrated the increasing impact of different ICTs on economic growth. The study measured the causal impact of fixed telephony, mobile telephony, Internet use, and broadband use on gross domestic product (GDP) growth over 26 years (from 1980 through 2006) across 120 developing and developed countries. A 2012 update, using data for 86 countries for 1980 through 2011, arrived at a similar result, demonstrating that a 10 percent increase in fixed broadband penetration results in a 1.35 percent increase in GDP growth in developing countries and a 1.19 percent increase in developed economies.
The report further states that four main mechanisms dictate the process by which ICTs contribute to macroeconomic growth by affecting inputs to GDP growth are by  contributing to GDP directly through the production of ICT goods and services as well as well through continuous advances in ICT-producing sectors, by contributing  to total factor productivity growth through the reorganization of the ways goods and services are created and distributed, and by generating positive employment effects, and increasing applications of ICTs (capital deepening) leading to rising labor productivity.
The above mentioned hence means that women continues to miss on this vast opportunities. For example, if there is scientific evidence that ICT  is generating positive employment effects this can only mean that women are missing a great deal. Again if  the increasing applications  of ICTs leads to a rise in labor productivity it would mean that anyone who fails to embrace these applications is disadvantaged.
A 2003  World Telecommunication Development Report on Access indicators  for the Information society also states that there are two dimensions to the impact of information and communication technologies (ICTs) on gender. One is the gender composition of ICT access. The other is the influence that ICTs can have on reducing gender inequality.
Worldwide, there is only limited availability of gender-disaggregated statistics on ICT use. For those economies where surveys are available, a simple average indicates that 43 per cent of Internet users are female. For those economies where historical data is available, the trend is towards an increasing proportion of female users over time.
Unfortunately however, this data is mostly only available for developed nations. Where women are limited to the more traditional roles of homemaker and mother like in most African countries including Botswana where  their ability to attend school or work can be inhibited. In some countries, social customs make it difficult for women to participate in activities that involve mixing with men.
Botswana as a country has tools in place to bridge the digital divide along gender lines. The Girls in ICT commemorations were held recently to give women and girls an exclusive highlight in build up to the World Telecommunications and Information Society Day commemorations to be held in Gantsi on the 16th  of May.

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