"Girls are five times less likely to consider careers related to technology than boys" according to the International Communications Union (ICU).
This came to light at the opening ceremony of the Africa Summit for Women and Girls in Technology in a speech read on behalf of the Minister of Communication, Mrs Ursula Owusu-Ekuful by one of her Deputies, Mr Vincent Sowah Odotei. The summit will run from 9th to 11th October 2018 at the Labadi beach hotel in Accra, Ghana under the theme "Unlocking Africa's Digital Future".
About 250 women are expected to attend to determine policy steps needed to close Africa's growing digital gender gap which is the largest in the world.
Mrs Owusu-Ekuful said in her speech that the summit offers a valuable platform to dialogue, share knowledge and experience and to collectively work towards designing solutions that will unlock a truly digital Africa where women and girls benefit from access to technology and opportunities.
She said that digital technology has the potential to empower girls economically and socially, adding that the theme is an important reminder of the need to be proactive to promote girls in digital literacy. "According to the International Communications Union, 90 percent of jobs worldwide already have a digital component and over the coming years, those jobs will require increasingly sophisticated digital and ICT skills".
She said that women and girls continue to face gender based barriers that prevent them from accessing and utilising technology on the same level as boys and men.
She pointed out in the speech that " a 2017 survey by the McKenzie global institute shows that USD 12 trillion can be added to the global economy by 2025 through advancing women's equality. "Technology is one of the six key gaps that must be bridged in order for women to reach their full potential.
Again, there is a huge digital skills gap across a range of sectors due to the introduction of new technologies and processes that require IT specific skills " she said.
Government, she noted, recognises the need to bridge the digital divide and has put in place a number of interventions with policies such as the Eastern Corridor Fiber Optic backbone connecting about 27 districts and towns, the Universal Access Fund which has 214 Community Information Centers set up to provide information, connectivity and services at minimal costs with key focus on women and girls among others.
She said other initiatives such as 'Girls Can Code' and 'Girls in ICT' are all part of efforts to include women in technology aimed at closing the digital gender gap.
Dr Omobola Johnson, former Nigerian Minister of Communication Technology, during a leadership session with other prominent women in technology, said that ICT is transformative because it does not involve only infrastructure but other sectors such as jobs, economics, politics and more. She said she began working on things that will help women in technology as Minister, one of which was closing the gender gap through establishing a number of projects such as a Digital Girls Club. Through that, about a thousand low skilled girls and women received training and jobs in the field of technology pointing out that the African continent has few women entrepreneurs.
The summit is a collaboration between World Wide Web Foundation, Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI), Ghana's Ministry of Communications, Africa Development Bank, Open Society Initiative for Africa, UN Women, Facebook and more. It will involve high level panels, lighting talks, hands on workshops which will focus around affordable broadband, digital skills and entrepreneurship as well as women's rights online.