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IT skills gap and capacity training for Nigerian women

Late Kofi Annan, the former United Nations (UN) Secretary General, said at  the World Summit on the Information Society, in Geneva, on December 10,  2003,…

Late Kofi Annan, the former United Nations (UN) Secretary General, said at  the World Summit on the Information Society, in Geneva, on December 10,  2003, that  “the so-called digital divide is actually several gaps in one. There is a technological divide—great gaps in infrastructure. There is a content divide. A lot of web-based information is simply not relevant to the real needs of people. And nearly 70 per cent of the world’s websites are in English, at times crowding out local voices and views. There is a gender divide, with women and girls enjoying less access to information technology than men and boys. This can be true of rich and poor countries alike”.

A report by the UN estimated that 230 million jobs in Sub-Saharan Africa will require digital skills by 2030, and UNESCO estimates that only 30% of women receive STEM training, with even fewer girls possessing essential digital skills for the modern workforce in the region.

This writer also reports that despite Nigeria’s strong entrepreneurial spirit, only 15% of tech startup co-founders in Nigeria are women. 

 A study published by LongHash in 2018 shows that among 100 blockchain startups surveyed, female employees accounted for only 14.5% of the workforce. 

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Nigerian women’s access to capacity-  building on ICT

Though many organisations world wide  have been working to build the capacity of women to access and use new ICT, through providing training for ICT-related jobs, as well as training for women in using ICT in their professions, including small businesses; in Nigeria, the situation has yet to improve significantly. This is because little ICT  training given to women and girls in Nigeria are conducted in English and millions of women and girls in the country, especially in the north, don’t speak English. The English language has been a barrier to them getting good ICT trainings and it has also become a prerequisite for access to 

half of the information available on  the Internet—for example, in search  engines, catalogues and other  sources.

Employment

Their inability to get good, qualitative ICT trainings limit the chance of Nigerian women to vie with their male counterparts in seeking ICT related employment. 

The International Labour Organi-  zation (ILO) World Employment  Report (2001), observes that pat-  terns of gender segregation are being  reproduced in the information economy with women concentrated in  end-user, lower-skilled ICT jobs related  to word-processing and data entry  and men in more senior managerial,  administration and design of net- works, operating systems and soft- ware. 

Women finding employment in  the new, often ICT-related industries are rarely those who lost their jobs  in the traditional sectors, according to the ILO report. New inequalities are therefore emerging between women with ICT-related jobs skills versus those without. Internationally outsourced jobs, such as medical transcription work or  software services, have made a considerable difference to women’s work opportunities in developing countries. 

But in software, women enjoy opportunities on a scale never experienced in any other field, according to ILO. In the information technology sector generally, however, women make up a small percentage of managerial, maintenance and design personnel in networks, operating systems and software. 

According to the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), women hold nine  per cent of mid- to upper-level IT related jobs in engineering and make up 28.5 per cent of computer pro- grammers and 26.9 per cent of sys- tems analysts. Only among data entry workers do they form the major- ity at 85 per cent.

The majority of positions within traditional telephone companies in most countries are held by women. This is true of Nigeria too. A closer  look, however, reveals that women dominate the ranks of telephone oper- ators and data entry personnel.  Little data is available on women’s participation in computer science, engineering research and employment in the private sector as well as in  research institutions. 

Many women who operate computers use them largely for word-processing and related office programmes and for  data entry. Few women are employed  as programmers and systems analysts.

But a company, Yellow Card, through its YC Social Good Initiative, said it intends to close this gap, equipping and preparing young African women with the necessary skills required to shape the future of the continent. 

The pan-African cryptocurrency exchange and financial technology firm, through a $3,000 grant, has teamed up with the Web3Ladies mentorship program to empower over 500 Nigerian women with relevant tech and blockchain skills. 

This move by Yellow Card is part of its YC Social Good, the company’s flagship Corporate Social Responsibility Initiative, aimed at promoting financial freedom and enabling access to tech resources for everyone across the continent. 

“We are committed to helping people across the African continent improve their lives through various partnerships and programs that focus on financial inclusion, youth empowerment, education, and innovation,” said the Chief Operating Officer of Yellow Card, Jason Marshall, who spoke at a press conference in Lagos recently. 

 Jason further explained that women and girls face significant barriers to technology and digital literacy education, making it an easy decision to grant Web3Ladies the $3,000 for the mentorship program. 

“This is just one of our several efforts under the YC Social Good, our CSR initiatives, which promote inclusion and financial freedom across the continent,” Marshall added.

The Web3Ladies mentorship program is a three-month intensive boot camp designed to train skilled designers, engineers, and managers for the blockchain industry while providing them with the necessary tools and tech resources needed for post-training success. 

For Yellow Card, the decision to partner with Web3Ladies, a women-centric organization, was driven by the need to provide greater access to training and tech resources for the burgeoning young population of the continent, particularly females, who face significant barriers.

Associate Program Manager for Web3Ladies, Nkechi Enebeli while commenting on Yellow Card’s $3,000 grant to power their mentorship program, said, “Yellow Card’s partnership reaffirms the belief that empowering women in tech is not just a matter of equality but an investment in the future”. 

She further explained that “The partnership is more than just financial support; it’s a testament to the power of collaboration. We are immensely grateful to Yellow Card for recognizing our mission and offering their hand in our journey towards a more equitable tech ecosystem”.

The Web3Ladies mentorship program runs in four different phases for a duration of three months. During the program, mentees attend live classes and weekly workshops under the guidance of on-site mentors. 

The workshops are in-depth sessions on specific blockchain topics delivered by industry experts and experienced professionals. 

There are over 500 registered mentees and an intake of over 200 accepted applicants in the current cohort. We are looking to provide work tools such as laptops, inverters, and MiFis to successfully graduated mentees after the cohort program.

Since its launch in Nigeria in 2019, Yellow Card has contributed thousands of dollars to sponsor various projects and initiatives. This support extends beyond Nigeria and expands across the continent. Yellow Card has supported initiatives such as Generation Empower (GenEm) in support of their mission to educate and empower the youth in Tanzania, a $5,000 grant to the Purple Skills Klinic Foundation, which seeks to empower young people in Uganda, among other projects led by the company.

The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has also reiterated its commitment to ensuring a balance in the representation of females in the information technology (IT) ecosystem.

NCC at the ICT quiz competition for girls in senior secondary schools, organised by Nigerian Women in Information Technology (NIWIIT), said there was an urgent need to equip the girl child with adequate knowledge, access and use of information technology programmes and services which will give them the needed skill to compete in the digital space.

The NCC further said the commission’s is committed to re-skilling the girl child and women by collaborating with stakeholders in the ICT sector to create programmes to encourage, empower and expose them to the vast opportunities present in the digital world.

 

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