International Girls in ICT Day: the importance of mobile applications, female leadership and female entrepreneurship for sustainable development

UNESCO joined the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications of Senegal, Sonatel and Google in the last day a month filled with activities under the YouthMobile initiative, with the aim to raise awareness, to train, to learn and to promote young women’ professional development in the communications and information technology sector (ICT).

28 April, International Girls in ICT Day, established by ITU and celebrated in over 150 countries around the world, celebrates girls and young women and encourages them to pursue studies and careers in the technology sector through training of coding, development of mobile applications and IT.

In Dakar, the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications, the Ministry of Woman, Family and Children, ITU, UNESCO, Article 19, Sonatel, and Google came together to celebrate and highlight the country's economic growth through investment in the girls’ education in the ICT sector. The objective of the celebration was to ensure gender equality between men and women and enable girls and young women to be "powerful agents of change" in a sector where men are now a majority.

"Innovating, creating, and not only consuming, taking risks and working in teams will be the job of the future," said the panel moderator on Women Leadership; "We must try, look for what we love, and learn to use the tools at our disposal to create the work that enriches us. "

"We live in the technological age, where social networks are very important. If used properly, they can be a window for visibility and business promotion "- said the representative of Sonatel"- and if girls are the future, we must invest in them and in their development so that they can improve the living conditions of the society in the community in which they live, "- added the representative of the Ministry of Woman, Family and Children of Senegal.

"Gender equality is one of our global priorities" continued the representative of UNESCO "by supporting the initiatives of the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications of Senegal, we ensure the sustainable knowledge empowerment and capacities for women in the field of information and communications technology.”

Following a month of close cooperation between UNESCO and the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications of Senegal for the promotion of the creation of mobile applications by young women, the celebration was an opportunity to embark on the next stage of cooperation between two organizations; the creation of a mobile application called appGENRE. The Appgenre aims to educate the Senegalese population and in the ECOWAS space on gender, providing information on gender, equality among young people, to help reduce gender inequality.

Beyond the announcement of the mobile application launch, jointly-developed by UNESCO and the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications, as well as the prize of the Jiggen CI TIC contest organized at UNESCO on 23 and 24 April 2016, two round tables were held during the day of celebration of Girls in ICT:

  • Development of mobile applications and their contribution to sustainable development, moderated by OSIWA with the participation of UNESCO, Google, Sonatel, and a woman digital entrepreneur and blogger,
  • Female leadership in ICT with the participation of women leaders in the sector in Senegal.

"The celebration was very inspiring, with the exchange and sharing of experiences of women leaders in the ICT sector," commented in unison many girls present at the celebration.

The questions they asked about on "why women should engage and get passionate about the ICT sector" caught the interest of women panelists, who are female bloggers and entrepreneurs. They explained their passion and curiosity to experiment the tools available in the technology and digital content on the web, that allow them to be autonomous, able to solve local challenges for the development of their communities, and to work for the well-being of other women, girls and men.

The month of joint activities took place under the initiative YouthMobile. Created in 2014 by UNESCO, the initiative offers introductory courses in computer programming (learning-to-code) and problem solving (coding-to-learn). The initiative targets young boys and girls to acquire basic technical skills and the necessary confidence for the development, promotion and marketing of mobile applications that address local sustainability issues. By 2017, the initiative’s overall objective is to allow at least 25,000 young people to develop the skills of the 21st century to fully participate in addressing the challenges of sustainable development in their communities. The initiative introduces young people to entrepreneurship and to create viable employment opportunities in the mobile phone industry and ICT Sector.

UNESCO remains committed to gender thematic and quality education to achieve the sustainable development goals, to build a just and equitable world by 2030. Following the success of the month of activities carried out in the framework of YouthMobile, UNESCO, the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications of Senegal and Sonatel will soon meet to develop a strategy to institutionalize and sustainably implement the training of young women in mobile applications, for positioning Senegal as a leading country in ICT, female entrepreneurship, and innovation.