By Chimezie Godfrey
The Director-General of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Kashifu Inuwa, has encouraged women with relevant technological abilities to harness their potential by upscaling their skills in order to close the digital gender gap in the country.
The DG who was represented by the Deputy Director, Digital Economy Department, Dr. Amina Sambo threw open the challenge at the 10th Year Anniversary of the Nigeria Women in Information Technology, (NIWIIT) National Conference in Lagos.
Inuwa, in his goodwill message on the theme “Unleashing Innovation: Scaling Up Digital Skills for Women and Girls” noted that bringing women to speed in the Nation’s digital economy journey is critical to the country’s long-term prosperity.
“Women and girls account for more than 50% of our population. At this age, building the digital skills of this population is one of the most strategic and wisest things any Government could embark on to unleash innovation in entrepreneurship and other frontiers for social and economic growth”.
The NITDA DG while commending the organizers for bringing the digital gender divide concerns to the front burner at it’s 7th National Conference, was optimistic that the panel discussion sessions will give great insights into creative approaches toward building the digital skills of the women in the most impactful manner.
He averred that that the ongoing efforts will not only help the country to prepare girls and women for future opportunities but also for global competitiveness.
Inuwa who made reference to the African Developer Ecosystem report, quoted that “Female career growth was heavily impacted as childcare and home responsibilities increased during COVID-19 lockdown.’’
The Director-General observed that women and girls are faced with fewer opportunities to develop and explore the heights of their potential, which are mostly attributed to limited support and placements for them, physiological reasons, and perceived relegation of women folk to home keeping and childbearing; thereby truncating the potentials women carry, long before they can be developed.
“These realities remain more dominant in the developing countries of the world. While women in first-world countries also deal with problems of career resilience, their counterparts in poorer countries have the other hurdles of poverty, poor healthcare, and low standard of living, to deal with on a daily basis, thereby depriving them of a conducive environment to develop their potential”.
The NITDA Boss however expressed confidence in the possibility of changing the narrative with the growth in digital technology penetration and consumption in Nigeria; stressing that to fully harness the opportunities that abound, however requires reorientation, contemporary training in digital literacy and skills, and training that will equip women and girls with the digital skills they need to participate in the ever-growing global digital economy which Oxford Economics values at $11.5 trillion dollars or approximately 16% of the Global Economy.
“Digital solutions and the requisite digital skills have the potential to create opportunities for women to make a difference in society and earn industry-standard fees for making such services available, further positioning themselves to export their skills internationally as real drivers of change”.
Having understood the potential of the value women can create, the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Inuwa said has been making significant strides to empower women in developing digital skills through the creation of various capacity building programmes and initiatives to support digital entrepreneurship in women and also accelerate the achievement of the objectives of its digital literacy and skills strategy.
“We give women and girls special consideration in all of our initiatives and programmes. Women should not be discouraged; there are favourable reports about girls and women’s development. Therefore, there is a need to continue creating and strengthening awareness and preparing our women and girls for the challenge of today and preparing them for tomorrow’s opportunities”, the DG stressed.
Inuwa who maintained that the rapid rise of digital consumption in Nigeria has created a gap in the supply chain that highly skilled and trained women and girls in IT can fill, charged NIWIIT to create awareness of the need to continually build the digital skills needed to harness opportunities and create value that never existed before through innovations.
He assured the group that the Agency is happy to be associated with the platform and will do it’s best to support the implementation of the conference’s recommendations in order to unleash spurge digital entrepreneurship innovations for everyone’s social and economic development.
The President of the Nigerian Women in Information Technology (NIWIIT), Dele Bayo-Osibo while asserting that inclusion is the currency of the moment, in general and digital inclusion in particular, affirmed that the urgency to be included in the moving train cannot be overemphasized and must be intentional.
“NIWIIT must take on the baton and contribute her quota to this clarion opportunity for building the Nation of the future”, she added.
The NITWIT President expressed appreciation to NITDA and other collaborators for identifying with the platform and it’s projections.
Other speakers also added their voices to the dire need of closing the digital gender gap for the collective prosperity of all, irrespective of gender, tribe, or political affiliations.