By Martin Ekpeke
Stakeholders who gathered at this year’s Women Entrepreneurs & Executives in Tech Summit (WEETS), organised by TechLife Media and Communications Limited have made a case for women’s inclusiveness in Nigeria’s digital economy quest being championed by the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy.
They urged women to take advantage of the new technological order by maximizing their talent, developing new skills and ultimately, improving their quality of life through social, educational and economic engagements and mentorship.
While insisting that government and other stakeholders in the Information and Communications Technology sector must form a definite policy direction on digital agenda pursuit that carries women along, the stakeholders at the well-attended summit noted that for women to be taken seriously they should be a driving force to get empowered and reskilled.
“Women can be much more resourceful when they are reskilled. ICT should be leveraged to drive processes that will empower and reskill women to be a force in government and private sector,” said Engr. Ikechukwu Nnamani, President of the Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON).
According to Engr. Nnamani, who is also the Chief Executive Officer of Medallion Data Centre, women should start taking up careers in emerging technologies like Artificial Intelligence and cybersecurity to accelerate their growth and development. He noted that these careers can be learned from the comfort of their homes.
“Women need to learn about Artificial Intelligence and cybersecurity to accelerate their growth and development. The time to acquire these skills is less than 12 months. There is an opportunity for good income having these skills,” he explained.
For Dr. Yele Okeremi, Chief Executive Officer of Precise Financial Systems Ltd, government and the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy should identify initiatives to support women, whom he said 47 percent of them started a business in the last year, compared to the 44percent of men.
Defining a woman entrepreneur as the woman who initiates organizes and operates a business enterprise, Dr. Yele argued that women in Nigeria and indeed Africa face a lot of adversities. Some of such adversities, according to him include an unfavorable business environment, gender inequality, inadequate support system, limited funding, balancing responsibilities and fear of failure.
Meanwhile, explaining the role government is playing to empower and bring women on board the digital economy quest, the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) said it is determined to bridge the gap and boost participation through special training programmes for women and the conventional ICT capacity development activities of which both men and women are given the same opportunities.
The Head of Servicom Unit at NITDA, Mrs. Tariundu Ndoni, who gave a goodwill message on behalf of the DG, Mal. Kashifu Inuwa at the summit (WEETS) in Lagos, noted that with women’s participation in ICT below 24 percent, it has become essential to empower and encourage them to consider studies and careers in ICT to bridge the existing technology gender gap.
“Specifically, NITDA has trained 200 women in ICT Training and Entrepreneurship and each participant is provided with laptops, Internet dongles and various software packages. 50 women trained in capacity building for digital literacy, 60 rural women trained in ICT Techprenuership and tablets distributed to each participant,” she said.
Mrs. Tariundu predicted that the 310 women being trained are projected to create 3,100 direct jobs and over 310,000 indirect jobs. She also emphasized that the key objectives of these programs include boosting digital literacy, digital jobs creation, promoting digital inclusion, bridging the digital divide and the use of technology to address the gender imbalance in terms of economic opportunities.
Prof. Danbatta, who was represented by NCC’s Head, Digital Media Management, Nafisa Usman Rugga at the summit, said the promotion of gender equality is a major component of ICT development.
“Gender dimensions of ICT manifest in access and use; capacity-building opportunities; employment and potential for empowerment, and all these dimensions need to be explicitly identified and addressed, to leverage technology and communication as powerful catalysts for political, economic, and social empowerment of women, and the promotion of gender equality.
He added that the theme of the summit, ‘Reskilling Women & Girls to Thrive in the Digital Economy resonates deeply with the drive by the Federal Government to ensure an all-inclusive digital economy that drives the strategic vision plan of the Commission and Nigeria as a country.
He also disclosed that one of the ways through which the Commission strives to achieve inclusive growth, is through increased digital connectivity to all, regardless of gender and other accidental circumstances, and that the Commission has continued to play a front-seat role in driving the implementation of the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy (NDEPS), 2020-2030; the Nigerian National Broadband Plan (NNBP), 2020-2025; and related policies aimed at deepening connectivity for all citizens, thereby bridging digital gender disparity.
“The NCC has put on the front burner the need to expose girls and young women to more opportunities in the digital ecosystem, in line with the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) resolution 70, which advocates gender mainstreaming and promotion of gender equality, as well as the empowerment of women through information and communications technology (ICT), and we are fully committed to this,” Danbatta said.
Keying into the position of other stakeholders, Mr. Kole Jagun, the President/Chairman of the Council of the Computer Professional (Registration Council of Nigeria), noted that the Women Entrepreneurs and Executives in Tech Summit portends as a forum for raising awareness, initiating discussions, identifying ways to inspire women and girls to take on entrepreneurship opportunities, leadership position and play active roles in the evolving global digital economy.
He said the theme for this year’s WEETS, “Reskilling Women & Girls to Thrive in The Digital Economy,” is very apt as it is the way to go in the face of the disruptions that Covid-19 brought to bear on the world.
He believes that reskilling can flip the odds and offer significant opportunities for women, particularly in the in-demand STEM roles, as administrative or clerical jobs mainly held by women begin to disappear, women can learn new skills that pay as much or more – and be retrained as the needs of organizations change.
The Women Entrepreneurs & Executives in Tech Summit is intended to accelerate progress and identify Nigerian women across the board who have been able to maximize the enormous opportunities offered by the digital age to better their communities, careers, and the nation as a whole.
Being the second edition, the summit attracted participation from a cross-section of the economy in both public and the private sectors, despite being perceived as a women’s programme. Some of the organisations and groups represented at the event include the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), Association of Licenced Telecom Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), Nigeria Computer Society, Computer Registration Professionals Association of Nigeria, Federal Ministry of Women Affairs, Lagos State Employment Trust Fund (LSETF). Those from the private sector include Africa Data Centre, Hoop Telecoms, Medallion Data Centre, MTN Nigeria, Precise Financial Systems, Sifax Group, MainOne, Mydot.com, ICSL, Transworld security and MoMo. The media community as well as participants from key players in the banking, telecom, software, and hardware of the nation’s ICT industry was also in attendance.