Women can shape the future of Nigeria’s Information Communication Technology (ICT), but girls today need ICT to shape their own future by tapping into its vast resource of information on reproductive health and rights, among others.
“I know I want to be a computer scientist,” says a Senior Secondary School Student, Ruby Tagema Sakema, “but I just need more direction on whether to go for hardware or software.”
Women are few in the field of information and communication technology in the country. According to Ademola Komolafe, a programme manager with Digital Peers International, which convened hundreds of girls to mark Girls in ICT Day recently, “Male dominance of ICT is rubbing on our world, but we are looking at a larger population of humans, which happens to be female, to key into this very broad spectrum.”
An Activist who uses technology to inform young people on climate, justice and human rights, Esther Agbarakwe, says “ICT is crucial to Nigeria’s growth and a strong democracy needs investment in technology–and making sure young people have access to that technology to build their capacity, connect and be able to contribute to society.”
Nigeria has an emerging culture of women in high places–its finance and ICT ministers are impressively women, but those are “political leaders” and do not reflect the true society, argues Agbarakwe, because in reality, men not women–are investing in and having access to ICT.
“We are a cultural society where women are kept in the back in everything we do. From the home to church to mosque and even workplaces, women are second fiddle to men but that has to change. It is changing around the world and technology can make that change faster,” she says.
“Women need to be seen as much more than an emerging market for technology. Women are investors in this market as well. Women are pioneering a lot.”
That includes one of the first-ever computer programming languages, but many girls hardly know that, says Patricia Fom of the IT firm Modern Business Services and Solutions. She says girls lack forums to know there are other women in ICT, “to know they can do it and it is not something for men alone.”
“We know that women can equally do as well, but if their orientation is not there or they don’t see themselves in that, they probably will not rise up to the call.”
By Judd-Leonard Okafor