The Minister for Communications and Digitalisation, Ursula Owusu-Ekuful, has expressed the Ministry’s optimism to partner parents, guardians, teachers, elders of faith-based institutions in various communities, to support in guiding the youths on the ‘Dos and Don’ts in the use of online tools to develop their career paths to contribute to national development.
The Minister emphasized, “With our collective efforts, we can ensure that we get the best out of our girls.”
She made the expression in a speech read on her behalf by the Honorable Deputy Minister of Communications and Digitalisation, Ama Pomaa Boateng (MP), at the opening ceremony of the ‘Open Day’ of the National Girls-in-ICT Day Celebration on Monday, 25th April 2022, at the Kofi Annan Centre of Excellence in ICT.
According to her, the Open Day for the Girls-in-ICT Initiative was instituted to provide an opportunity for the awardees from the participating regions to be attached to ICT-based Institutions and Companies, where they enjoy a week-long interaction with female achievers in the ICT industry.
“This, we do, to further deepen the insight of the girls into the nature of the world of work in the ICT industry and to encourage them to the point of knowing that they can also take up careers in this lucrative, but male-dominated industry,” The Minister stressed.
“As has been the custom, the “Open Day” Event has always taken place a few weeks after the training of the girls and the Climax event in the region. We trained 980 girls in November 2019 in the Central region and 584 girls in 2020 in Oti Region, 1000 girls in 2021 each in Western North and North East Regions.
However, following the training of all these girls in the four (4) regions, we have not been able to bring them to Accra to participate in the weeklong “Open Day” event due to the Covid-19 pandemic that hit the world in 2020. Though we were able to hold the celebration in Oti Region in 2020 (i.e. the Covid year), we were unable to bring the awardees to Accra for the usual attachment to ICT-based institutions.
In order not to lose these girls along the way, I resolved to bring 20 girls each from the four regions for which the “Open Day” Event has been outstanding.
80 girls has been drawn from the Central, Oti, Western North and North East Regions to participant in the insightful and exciting activities planned for this week for them.
Expressing her heartfelt joy, the Minister said, “Let me once again welcome our proud young ladies to this event. You are most welcome. I hope you have been using the laptops you received as awards for your excellent performance during the training in your districts. I most sincerely cherish your braveness, tenacity and zeal to challenge the status quo that ICT is a preserve for males.
You have indeed rekindled the spirit behind the mantra “what men can do, women can do better” and brought meaning to the “Yes we can” statement by the first Black President of America, His Excellency, Barak Obama who himself fought against all odds to achieve his aim. He is an icon of hope. You can also achieve anything if you put your mind to it, so as to be an inspiration to others.”
“We are here today because of you, our proud girls. We are here to celebrate you. We are here to help you complete the task you started few years ago. We will soon be out of the woods with the covid pandemic and we are putting together a sustainable mentorship program for you to enable you build consistently on what you have already been taught. We are determined to handhold you on your digital journey,” Intimated.
She however encouraged the girls to utilize the opportunity provided them to experience a weeklong work-life experience in these enviable institutions and corporations, by giving their very best and also strike the right relationships with their mentors.
The Minister also charged them to make a pledge to themselves that, in no distant future, they will come back having made a name for themselves by landing a job in one of these ICT institutions. “We are looking up to you to make your families, districts, regions, schools, teachers and Ghana proud,” She added.
The statement continued that, “This year, we have a target to train 5000 girls and 500 ICT/STEM teachers in 5 regions under the GIIC Initiative. This was the pledge I made at the Climax Event of the GIICT celebration at the Gambaga Girls SHS in North East Region.
In the recent past, the GIICT celebrations have been commemorated under such global themes as “Closing the Digital Divide and Gender Gap” “Expand Horizons, Change Attitudes”, “Connected Girls, Creating Brighter Future” under which some of your trainings were conducted.
This year, 2022, the global theme for the GIICT Celebration is Access and Safety. Indeed, “Access” is so relevant because, not all our communities have connectivity to access the digital platforms that will support the knowledge acquisition of our girls.
To address the access issue in Ghana, the Ministry through the Ghana Investment Fund for Electronic Communications (GIFEC) is implementing the Rural Telephony and Digitalisation Inclusion Project which will construct 2,016 rural sites for voice and data nationwide. Many communities have already benefited and are connected as we speak.
There are also “Safety” concerns in the digital world, and this is topical on the global agenda. I tis so crucial that we protect our cyber space and citizens as a nation. Unfortunately, ICTs come with risks and opportunities, just like the proverbial saying literally translates ‘the liver comes with the bile’.
The opportunities the internet presents are boundless, however there are dangers online. Programmes that provide educational resources online may inadvertently create the means for cyberbullying, pornography and other kinds of online crimes.
The internet comes with risks to the safety and privacy of our young ladies. Sometimes in our exuberance to acquire knowledge, we may expose our personal and sensitive data to commercial or other forms of exploitation online.
The Ministry through Parliament passed the Cyber Security Act, 2020 (Act 1038) to establish the Cyber Security Authority (CSA) to oversee and regulate all cyber security issues in Ghana.
Online safety is key on the agenda of the CSA. Government is not leaving any stone unturned to address safety issues for institutions and citizens in our digital journey in Ghana.
The CSA in February 2022 organized the ‘African Safer Internet Day’ to promote safe and positive use of technology by children and young people. Also, we have instituted October as the Cyber Security Awareness Month with the aim of promoting cyber hygiene of all citizens among many other steps being taken by the Authority to sensitize the general public on how to stay safe online.
Let us take note at this point that, issues regarding cyber bullying activities and related issues can be reported to the cybersecurity office via toll free number 292 on all networks.
For this year’s celebrations, each of the five (5) regions will have a thousand (1000) girls and a hundred (100) ICT/STEM teachers trained. We have already concluded the cycle namely: ToTs, Training of the Girls, Mentorship and Climax events in the Bono East Region.
One thousand girls have been trained. It was such a delight for me to give the over-all winner Princess Kumi, an 11-year-old, class 5 pupil of the Roman Catholic Primary School in Prang in the Pru West District in the Bono East Region her exciting award.
Indeed, I cannot over emphasize that hard work pays, and it is important for you to distinguish yourself by your hard work wherever you find yourself. In fact, the training of the girls in the Bono region starts today and the ToT for Ahafo region also starts today.
By the end of May, God willing, we would have completed the cycle for the three (3) Bono regions with a total of 3000 girls and 300 ICT/STEM teachers trained.”
She further mention that, this weeklong “Open Day” schedule of activities has been made possible with the support of the American Tower Corporation (ATC) being the main sponsor of the event since its inception, NCA, NITA, MTN, VODAFONE, AIRTEL/TIGO, CSA, ADC and Ghana Code Club who will be hosting mentoring workshops for the girls.
“To our sponsors, partners and teachers, we should remember that, our work is not complete until every one of these children become a point of reference in future. It is a shared-responsibility and each of us must play our roles effectively.” She charged.
ATC Ghana CEO, Yahaya Nasamu Yunusa, also said, “One of our key strategic pillars is our commitment in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, not just in ATC Ghana but right from the Group Level.
This reflects in the commitment Of resources to this agenda not just in the organization but in communities in which we operate. It is for this reason that we have over the years cortinued to support and collaborate with the Ministry not only as sponsors but active participants of the weeklong mentorship programme when the winners from the various regions are brought to Accra.
So, we are not only happy to be here today but we look forward to welcoming the school girls to our offices tomorrow for a day of mentorship and work shadowing.
The world is moving in a direction where digital skills will be required in all forms of work including entrepreneurship and vocational. In line with this year’s theme of “Access and Safety’, we believe exposing girls to not just the knowledge and skills but the career opportunities in Science, technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), will go a long way to bridge the digital divide.
In this regard, without giving much away, one of the key activities Planned for tomorrow will be first-hand eyperience of ICT and engineering at work and interaction with women engineers and in the ICT field to share their experiences, encourage and open their minds to possible career options.”
On his behalf, Mr. Robert Kuzoe, Ag. Chief Corporate Services Officer at MTN Ghana, said, basic skills in ICT is no longer a luxury but a necessity for our children, irrespective of where they are located, if they are to succeed in this information age.
Mr. Kuzoe, indicated that, to provide Girl-In-ICT with these essential skills, the MoCD, under the sponsorship of MTN and with the support of other partners are carefully laying real foundations of Ghana’s digital agenda.
The Director General of the Kofi Annan Centre of Excellence in ICT, Mr. Collins Yeboah-Afari, said, it is their mandate as the capacity development agency of MoCD to contribute to developing the human capital and skills needed for national development.
He therefore noted that, “As part of our mandate, we are quite keen on playing our part in bridging the gender digital divide. Reason why we support our Ministry in the GIICT. Let me also add that we will be happy to arrange for some of you girls to take part in our courses for free and also intern, work here during your vacations in the not-too-distant future.