Girls in ICT: journey so far

BY: Naa Korkoi Essah
School girls at an ICT lab
School girls at an ICT lab

The Ministry of Communications and Digitalisation (MoCD) completed its flagship programme, dubbed “Girls-in-ICT” for the year 2021 in the North East and Western North regions.

In all, a total of 2000 girls were introduced to and trained in basic Information Communication and Technology (ICT) skills, including coding.

It was held on the theme, “connected girls, creating brighter futures”.

The Girls in ICT (GIICT) programme was introduced in 2012 by the International Telecommunications Union to create a global environment that empowers and encourages girls and young women to consider studies and careers in the growing field of ICT.

Ghana has since then adopted this initiative and observed it on a regional basis, having already celebrated it in the Greater Accra, Ashanti, Northern, Volta, Western, Central and Oti regions.

GIICT Inception

Since its introduction, over 500,000 girls and women worldwide have benefitted from this initiative.

The training in coding has given 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.

As part of strategies to ensure that Ghana achieves the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 5 and Ghana’s ICT for Accelerated Development policy (ICT4AD) on bridging the gender digital divide, the MoCD, through its agencies –the Ghana Investment Fund for Electronic Communications(GIFEC), National Communications Authority (NCA) and the Kofi Annan ICT Centre of Excellence, has expanded the reach of the GIICT event.

Outline

As part of the training programme, the girls are introduced to scratch and basic structures of programming applications, after which they participate in a competition.

This competition is expected to test the depth of knowledge and ICT skills acquired during the training period, including website design, development of games, coding and simple ICT applications.

Interestingly, over 60 per cent of the girls trained had no prior knowledge or experience in the use of computers.

This, therefore, buttresses the determination by the sector ministry to expand the programme to reach more girls with adequate funding and resources from benevolent individuals and organisations.

Since its inception, the programme has been funded entirely by the MoCD, NCA and GIFEC, with some support from network operators and the American Tower Corporation (ATC).

This was, however, not enough to scale up the programme.

Appreciation

It is therefore gratifying to note that the Mobile Telecommunications Network (MTN) donated towards the GIICT programme as part of their 25th anniversary.

The programme involves the following phases-training of trainers course, training of 1,000 girls from districts within the selected region,and a mentorship session where women currently working in the ICT field share their personal life stories and professional experiences with the young girls to encourage and guide them in their future career choices.

An open day experience formed part of the programme where the best 100 girls are brought to Accra for a week to tour Mobile Network Operators, ICT firms and interact with women in the workspace.

It is worthy to note that this event has not been held since the outbreak of COVID-19.

As part of the motivation package, prizes such as laptops, modems, among other IT facilities, are awarded to girls who excel in the competition.

In addition, ICT laboratories are set up in the schools of the girls who performed very well in the competition.

Tertiary

The ministry has also introduced the Girls in ICT at the tertiary level to encourage young girls interested in pursuing careers in ICT.

This is being done in partnership with Huawei Technologies Ghana Limited.

In September 2021, 50 female students from the University Students Association of Ghana (USAG) were taken through a 10-day training programme in Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Big Data and Cyber Security.

This was a residential training programme.

The students were divided into groups and made to develop business-oriented ideas and solutions to modern problems and the groups with the most outstanding solutions to critical national issues were rewarded with deserving prizes.

SHS

The ministry, in collaboration with the Ministry of Education and Huawei Technologies- Ghana, also educated 60,000 female Senior High Schools (SHSs) in the Ashanti, Central and Eastern regions on Cyber Security as part of the Girls-in-ICT Programme in October 2021.

The next edition of the Girls-In-ICT Initiative will be held in the Bono, Bono East, Ahafo, Savannah and Northern regions with the aim of training 5,000 girls in 2022.

“It’s a very ambitious goal but there is so much work to be done to give our young people the right skills that we cannot wait.

I would have wished to expose all girls who desire digital skills anywhere in this country to the opportunity that these girls have received and I am working closely with the Ministry of Education to ensure that we mainstream practical ICT education in the curriculum of all schools” Minister for Communications and Digitalisation, Mrs Ursula Owusu-Ekuful, stated at the climax of the Girls-In-ICT programme in Gambaga in the North East Region.

The writer is the Head, Public Relations; Ministry of Communications and Digitalisation