Jasna Matić, Serbia’s Minister of Telecommunications
and Information Society, is the driving
force behind the new Global Network of Women
ICT Decision-Makers. Ms Matić started promoting
the Network during the ITU Plenipotentiary
Conference in Guadalajara in October 2010. The
outcome was that conference delegates overwhelmingly
supported the creation of the Network,
along with “gender mainstreaming in ITU
and promotion of gender equality and the empowerment
of women through information and
communication technologies”, as envisaged in
Resolution 70 (Rev. Guadalajara, 2010).
Ms Matić launched the Network in New York on
25 February 2011 with Michelle Bachelet, Executive
Director of UN Women, during the 55th Session of the
Commission on the Status of Women. ITU Secretary-General Dr Hamadoun I. Touré was one of the international
leaders to lend his support to the launch of
the new Global Network. In a video message, Dr Touré
said that ITU was committed to promoting information
and communication technologies as tools to empower
women and girls, as well as to encouraging more girls
and women to join the industry. “In the world today,
there are about 850 million young women aged under
24. With the ICT sector now serving as the world’s single
biggest growth engine for jobs, we’re going to need
their skills, their enthusiasm, and their fresh ideas.”
Ms Matić announced the creation of the Network
on 11 March during a high-level debate at ITU to mark
the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day.
ITU News had the opportunity of asking her a few questions
about the vision, the mission, the objectives and
the next steps for this new Global Network.
What is your vision for this new Network?
Jasna Matić: The vision for the Network is to create
gender equality and empower women through information
and communication technology. We would
really like to open up this sector for women and girls
throughout the world. We envisage a dual approach.
On one hand, we hope that women and girls will pursue
careers and education leading to this very exciting
and high growth area. On the other hand, we also
would like women and girls throughout the world to
take advantage of information and communication
technologies, as consumers and users, so that their lives
What is the aim of the Network?
Jasna Matić: The key mission is to raise awareness in
order to encourage women and girls to use information
and communication technologies and to pursue careers
in this area. Our overriding objective is the achievement
of a supportive environment for women and girls that
will enable them to be involved and to choose information
and communication technologies as empowerment
tools and as a path for career development.
Who can join the Network?
Jasna Matić: We expect women ICT professionals to
become our members. So far, we have seen great enthusiasm
on the part of all the women who have made
careers in ICT. We anticipate that women throughout
the world who are involved with ICT — whether from
government ministries, agencies, independent regulatory
bodies, companies or academia — will become the
prominent members of this Network. We also hope that
young women and girls who would like to pursue ICT
careers will become members and take advantage of
the Network’s mentoring and shadowing projects.
Obviously, the Network is open to women from the
ITU membership. It is easy to join the Network. Our portal
was launched in New York on 25 February, and there
is a brief online form to fill in (the web address is www.witnet.org).
What are the key activities of the Network?
Jasna Matić: Our flagship activity, which is mentioned
in Resolution 70, is Girls in ICT Day. We expect all
ITU Member countries to declare the fourth Thursday of
April every year as Girls in ICT Day, and to celebrate the
day by encouraging girls to pursue education and careers
in ICT. This year, Girls in ICT Day will be celebrated
on 28 April.
Our other activities will be our shadowing and mentoring
projects (Projects of the Global Network of Women ICT Decision-Makers). These projects will bring
together established professionals and young hopefuls.
Women who have established careers in ICT will take
young women and girls under their wing and show
them what it means to have a career in ICT, and how
to succeed in this very challenging and prominent area.
If you could achieve just three things with
this Network over the next four years (in
other words, between the time Resolution 70
was adopted and the next Plenipotentiary
Conference in 2014) what would they be?
Jasna Matić: We would like to see Girls in ICT Day
becoming an international event, so that girls throughout
the world are given the idea that they can have careers
in ICT. The result should be an increased number
of girls choosing maths, science, engineering and IT as
their majors in high schools and at college. We would
also expect to see an increase in the number of women
ICT decision-makers, in other words more women
in managerial and executive positions in governments,
businesses and academia.
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Do you already have specific projects
in Serbia to empower women and girls
and increase their opportunities in ICT
careers, to give effect to Resolution 70?
Jasna Matić: Together with the IT Students Association
at one of Serbia’s universities, we have helped the
girls form a girls’ chapter. We are now engaged in a
number of activities with them, such as round tables
and panel discussions. The girls will be the key targets
for the mentoring and shadowing projects that we are
implementing in Serbia this year.
Are there any strategies in place in
Serbia that you could share with the
ITU membership on how to increase the
number of women ICT decision-makers?
Jasna Matić: We have a plan together with our Association
of Business Women to work on empowering
women to strive for managerial positions. The association
has an IT section, and we hope that, through networking,
this “all girls club” will achieve the same sort
of results as old boys networks have been achieving for
a number of years now.
From your own experience as Minister,
what do you see as the biggest obstacles
and opportunities for women and girls
to become ICT decision-makers?
Jasna Matić: I think the biggest obstacles are the expectations
of the general public in regard to the traditional
gender roles. These attitudes are still prevalent in
families and in schools among teachers.
To be more optimistic and look at the opportunities,
I believe that information and communication technologies
really lend themselves to women because of the
communication part, which I think comes more naturally
to women. Women tend to be more successful communicators,
especially at the global level. So women
should participate in the ICT industry, and I believe that
women will be the dominant force in the global communication
industry in the years to come.
In what ways can women themselves contribute
to improving the gender balance in top jobs?
Jasna Matić: Women need to do exactly the same
thing that men do: promote each other, help each
other, communicate more, form their own network,
mentor younger colleagues, and seek advice from older
Do you see a specific role for ICT in
promoting the goals of the Network?
Jasna Matić: Yes, of course! ICT is both the topic and
the tool of this Network. Our Network will predominantly
function online, and we expect many of our key
projects also to be online. So there is online mentoring
and online shadowing, and of course all the brochures
and toolkits are available online. ICT will be the enabler
as well as the focus of our Network.
Resolution 70 as revised by the Guadalajara
Conference is still new, so Serbia will
probably be a trailblazer in celebrating the
first Girls in ICT Day on Thursday 28 April
2011. What plans do you have?
Jasna Matić: We will have various activities. The multinational
ICT companies that are present in Serbia will
be opening their doors to girls, high-school and college
students alike, so that the girls can see what their business
is all about. The Ministry of Telecommunications
and Information Society will be reaching out to schools
throughout the country, and together with some of our
telecom operators will be launching a competition for
the best tweet on the role of ICT in our lives. The winners
will come to Belgrade, spend a day at the Ministry
and visit the Nikola Tesla Museum of Technical Sciences.
In the evening we will have a networking event that will
be attended by the girls and by ICT professionals. The
first hour and a half will be for quick mentoring (the socalled
“speed dating” part of the event) and after that
we will have the informal part of the event.
Ms Matić, you have made great strides in
bringing the digital dividend to Serbia,
especially in the transition from analogue
to digital broadcasting. Could you highlight
some of the latest developments and do you
have a time-line for when the switchover will
be complete in Serbia?
Jasna Matić: In accordance with the strategy adopted
by the Government of Serbia almost two years ago,
the switchover date is set for 4 April 2012, so that
Serbia will be in line with neighbouring countries.
We have selected the most advanced standards for
digital television, that is MPEG4 and DVB-T2, and
a number of countries have followed our lead. We
have started implementing programme funded by
the European Union that will help us acquire the
equipment needed for digital broadcasting. We are
also receiving technical assistance from a team led
by experts from the BBC, who have been on the
ground for two months now and will stay with us
for more than a year. Now we are at the stage of
making a detailed plan so that we can accomplish
the transition by the set date.
What would you say to a girl asking for
your advice about a career in ICT?
Jasna Matić: I would say that ICT definitely offers a
great career for a woman. She will often have to face
different expectations, and when she enters a meeting
room a man may say “Oh, if you are here to translate,
sit at the back”. But a girl needs to pursue her dreams,
and this definitely is an area where women can really
express their talents and be successful. So I would say
never give up; and that general advice applies to any
goal in life.
How do you plan to involve governments,
international organizations, the private sector
and individuals in promoting the Network?
Jasna Matić: We already have a number of women
Ministers and Deputy Ministers who really want to be involved,
as well as international organizations. I imagine
that private companies will also come on board. In the
global struggle for talent, companies and government
institutions — as well as international organizations —
are really eager to bring in as many diverse talents as
possible. So we hope to have them all involved in our
activities. Some of them have already expressed their
interest in funding our activities, and all of them —
without any exception — have expressed an interest in
participating. So in the toolkits available on the portal
— the Girls in ICT Day toolkit, as well as the mentoring
and shadowing toolkits — there are a variety of activities
that are suitable for various levels of resources. We
hope that all the interested parties will be able to find
something that is appropriate for them.
Any final thoughts?
Jasna Matić: I very much appreciate the support that
we have got from ITU, not only from the Secretary-General
himself, but also from the great ladies that have
worked with us. I expect to have excellent cooperation
with the ITU Telecommunication Development Bureau
and its newly elected Director, Mr Brahima Sanou. We
also have great expectations based on our excellent experience
with UN Women and with Madame Bachelet
herself, who expressed great interest in working with us
and has supported us whole-heartedly up to now.