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International Girls in ICT Day 2018

Speech by Malcolm Johnson, ITU Deputy Secretary-General

Opening remarks - International Girls in ICT Day 2018

11 May 2018, Knust Great Hall, Kumasi, Ghana

Nana Kwaku Amankwah Sarkodie, Saawia Chief and representative of His Majesty Otumfuo Osei Tutu II; Chief of Staff, The Honourable Frema Opare; The Minister of Communications,The Honourable Ursula Owusu-Ekuful; Regional Minister, The Honourable Simon Osei-Mensah; Regional Director of Education Mary Owusu Achiaw and all other dignitaries present.

Good morning honourable dignitaries and girls!

I would like to thank the Minister for Communications for her kind invitation to be with you today. It is an honour and privilege to join her and other dignitaries.

My organisation ITU is based in Geneva and is the lead UN agency for information and communication technologies (ICTs). Using this technology for the social and economic empowerment of women and girls is high on our agenda. We are particularly keen to encourage girls to choose a career in ICTs, and this is one of the reasons ITU initiated Girls in ICT Day.

It is good to see that Ghana is making every day a Girls in ICT Day, and it is marvellous what has been achieved with this initiative in Ghana. Everyone here, including His Majesty the King of Ashanti, is clearly passionate about education and encouraging the traditional authorities to be active stakeholders in the information society and promoting ICT skills, especially for girls and I congratulate the government for this achievement and for recently introducing free secondary education for all. This is what Girls in ICT Day is all about.

This event here today is part of a global movement to inspire girls and young women to learn more about the amazing opportunities and careers offered by the ICT sector. Technology developments are creating new opportunities almost every week, and most of you will be in jobs in the future which do not even exist today. But one thing you can be sure of is that digital skills will be essential, essential for almost whatever career you chose to take.

In addition to Girls in ICTs, ITU has co-founded the EQUALS initiative, which is a network of organizations working together to ensure that women are given access to ICTs, are equipped with ICT skills, and develop the leadership potential to work in the ICT sector.

Another of our initiatives is the Digital Skills for Decent Jobs for Youth campaign which together with the International Labour Organization will equip millions of young people with job-ready digital skills.  

We also have a Digital Skills online Toolkit which provides guidelines on strategies for building the digital skills of women and girls.

And ITU is committed to gender equality within its own organization. We encourage applications for jobs from women, and we encourage our members, 193 governments and over 800 companies and other organisations, to include women on their delegations to ITU meetings and conferences. So I hope to see some of you in ITU one day, either as delegates or staff!

One of ITU's activities is to collect and disseminate data on ICTs, including the number of individuals accessing and using ICTs, disaggregated by gender, age, education, labour force status, and occupation. This data is analysed to provide evidence of the extent of women's participation in the information society, which shows that much is still needed to be done. So, we must all redouble our efforts.

But one important element in all these efforts is to highlight how successful women can be, and have been, in the ICT sector. Role models are important for everyone, and this is why in 2013 ITU started to award individual women who have been particularly successful and have made a contribution to improving gender balance in the ICT sector.

Of course, men as well as women have a role to play in improving gender balance and I am proud to say I myself received such an award on International Women's Day last year from the Geneva and Environment Network - as a Visionary and Inspiring Leader – the first man to achieve such an award!

Ghana should be proud therefore to have such fine role models as are here today: the Minister, the Chief of Staff; the Regional Director for Education; and Ivy Barley who won first prize at last year's prestigious "E-Skills for Girls Competition" in Germany, and who was awarded with a mentorship from Google and a meeting with Angela Merkel as a result – congratulations Ivy!

Also, support at the highest political level is essential to the success of any national initiative. Here again Ghana is fortunate in that the First Lady Rebecca Akufo-Addo, leads herself the "Girls Can Code" initiative.

So, I strongly believe that what is happening here in Ghana will result in many more girls and young women like you becoming critical thinkers and creators of the technologies which are so critical to address the most pressing issues we face - whether it be poverty, education, health, environment or sustainable development. Not only is gender equality key to ensuring that no one is left behind, it is essential to the success of the UN's Sustainable Development Goals.

With digital skills the future is yours to create. So, as Ivy says, dream big. Dream of a world where more African women will lead in science, technology, engineering and math - a world where YOU will play a central role in OUR digital future. And looking at all the young, bright and enthusiastic faces in front of me, it is clearly a dream that is going to come true!

I wish you every success with your careers and I hope that today will inspire you to take advantage of, and contribute to, the success of our digital future!

Thank you for listening and good luck!