Ministry of Information and Communication Infrastructure
Kanifing, Gambia, 2014, April 22
The Ministry of Information and Communication Infrastructure (MOICI) spearheaded the 2014 Girls in ICT celebration. A multi stakeholder taskforce was established by MOICI consisting of the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA), the Ministry of Youth and Sports, the Information Technology Association of the Gambia (ITAG), Information Society of the Gambia (ISOC), and HotInk Media, to organise and plan the events. PURA as the telecommunications regulatory body was the main sponsor of all the events as part of its regulatory support role.
This year's event consisted of three main activities leading to the official celebration day on 24th April and a logo competition that ran for seven weeks. The three activities were: familiarization tour of women in ICT at work & visit to local ICT institutions, secondary school debate (Rural vs Urban) and a symposium. For the official day on 24th April, a prize-giving day was held for the winners of both the debate and logo competition and a dance/cocktail for the students. Although the entire event took place during the Easter break, the turnout was superb. Extensive exposure was achieved through different media platforms such as, radio & television shows and social media, especially our Facebook page, Girls in ICT Gambia.
Event 1: Women in ICT Tour
The event was held on the 12th of March 2014. Forty students from four schools across Gambia were chaperoned by members of the national organising committee on the tour. The students were taken to the Africa Coast to Europe (ACE) Landing Station, the termination point of the first and only fibre optic cable to the Gambia providing broadband connectivity with international bandwidths. The group also visited QCell, a Gambian mobile operator; Lasting Solutions, an ICT training institute; RLG Gambia Ltd, a mobile and computer assembling plant and finally GAMCEL our national telephone carrier.
The students got a chance to see local ICT infrastructure and thus have a feel of how far Gambia has come and the opportunities available here in the country with regards to ICT. More importantly, the students were given an insight of the viability of women working in ICT. They were also advised on embracing math and science, as it is an integral element of technology today.
As possible future employers, it was also critical to bring the male students along, as it is believed by seeing women in ICT at work especially in decision making positions, it will change their mindset on women's participation in ICT. This exposure can also encourage them to further support their female counterparts and sisters who may be interested in ICT.
Event 2: Debate: Do Gambian girls have a place in ICT – Rural versus Urban.
Students were brought down from Armitage Senior Secondary; a school based in the eastern part of the country in McCarthy Island, to go against the only all-girls school in the country, St Joseph's Senior Secondary School in Banjul. We had the rural students stay with us for the duration of all events.
The competition was well attended by both senior public and private sector players in both the ICT and education fraternity and students from other schools. The keynote address was given by the Director of Consumer Affairs at PURA, Solo Sima, who spoke of the importance of mainstreaming the girls in ICT agenda. The principal of St Joseph's, Kippi Coker in her welcome remark spoke of the importance of connectivity in schools and the importance it plays in engaging her students in ICTs. Debate topic was, "Do Gambian women have a place in ICT?" St Joseph's being against the motion won due to delivery and research as commented by the judges.
We thus far have many schools interested in being a part of our next debate, which we plan on having bi-annually, in order to keep the girls in ICT issue alive. In his closing remarks, the Director General of PURA, Mr. Abdou Jobe as one of the judges advised the students to take their science and math seriously and to seek out ICT related fields in study as one cannot separate it from most chosen fields of work nowadays. He urged the female students to seek out female role models and engage them as mentors.
Event 3: Symposium
The objective of the symposium was to bring together top ICT women in The Gambia to interact with the students. It was a platform for all our multi stakeholders, particularly, key women in ICT such as, Naceesay Marenah, the Director of IT at The Gambia's national mobile operator, female NGO leaders such as Yadi Aribo Njie of FAWEGAM, top female lawyers such as Loubna Farage, and female bank managing director of EcoBank Gambia, Mareme Mbaye Ndiaye, all of whom came together to discuss the girl / women in ICT issue.
The symposium was opened by the Director of Basic Education, who praised MOICI for continuously pushing the youth in the ICT agenda by particularly shining light on the disparities in the gender participation in the ICT terrain. She commended MOICI's work, as it is complimentary to what her ministry has been promoting nationally. The focal person for girls in ICT at MOICI, Khadijah Aja Tambajang, also made a statement highlighting her ministries' commitment to the girls in ICT issue. She stated that MOICI as the authority in charge of pushing the nation's overall ICT agenda is tasked with creating a conducive environment for Gambian girls, in order for them to find space in the ever-evolving sphere of technology; which has been done by highlighting gender mainstreaming in our National Information and Communication Information (NICI) policy and ICT4D policy. Both secondary and higher education representatives attended as well.
The symposium topics centered on, privacy and the Internet; breaking the socio economic and institutional barriers: youth empowerment and entrepreneurship; ICT development for women -- breaking the gender divide; and ICT and the media. There were also two main presentations from two women working in ICT, an Engineer, Sally Bittaye Janneh on the myths surrounding female engineers and another presentation by Ida Mboob, a telecoms law specialist on the difficulties of regulating a rapidly changing domain. Both ladies are from the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority, PURA, who was the main event sponsor.
On the official International Girls in ICT Day, 24th April 2014, a prize-giving and cocktail dance was held for students. The winner of the logo competition was announced and walked away with a RLG laptop and the debate prizes were handed out as well.
During the assessment meeting with the logo competition entrants, the team got the chance to meet one of the girls whose logo came second place. The team was touched by her story as she had started a course with an IT institution but was unable to maintain her financial obligations so she had to drop out of the course. The team felt she had the potential and drive and needed to be encouraged. The team thus approached PURA, the regulator to sponsor her to continue her IT course. She was surprised with this news at the cocktail.
Remarks made by the Deputy Permanent Secretary, Information at MOICI bordered on the events overall success and immediate impact. An announcement was made of three technical training packages that were sponsored to the Gambia Girls in ICT campaign by a local training institute. This showed the importance and far reaching impact the campaign had gathered thus far.
Sponsors: PURA, RLG, GamWater, Lastin Solutions, HotInk Media and KMF Technologies