Why do we need more women and girls in ICT?
Only 30 per cent of all female students worldwide choose STEM*-related careers and only three per cent are undertaking ICT-related studies, according to a 2017 report by UNESCO. We need gender balance so that more professionals can have access to the new skills required in today’s digital and globalised world Technology is evolving quickly, and these skills are necessary to gain access to new job opportunities.
I think that we as women can provide a different perspective on the use and adoption of technology. From my experience in the humanitarian sector, I believe that women can help drive technology to become more orientated towards serving the community and responding to the needs of society.
What are some of the ICT challenges that NRC is facing?
The adoption of technology in our region is still a big challenge, from our colleagues in the field to the displaced people that we work with. We are also facing difficulties accessing internet services and devices in hard-to-reach areas where NRC is present. Additionally, we need to ensure that the technology we provide is relevant to the context and that we contribute with long-term solutions. Giving girls the opportunity to experience the field of technology in conflict-affected areas matters, as they will gain a greater sense of responsibility and respect for what is possible in today’s world at the same time as they learn about the rights of populations affected by wars.
How have our partners contributed to the digital transformation of NRC?
Our partners have been crucial to the digital transformation of NRC. They have provided access to their platforms, supported capacity-building for our staff, and provided funds to deploy the solutions. Strategic alliances such as our Nethope membership are helping us connect with these corporate ICT partners and collaborate with other NGOs.
We are working with Microsoft to develop a chatbot that will provide information, counselling and legal assistance (ICLA) to vulnerable people in the Venezuelan migration crisis. It is part of a set of ICLA products whereby we are looking to use technology to reach more people in need and according to their context and requirements.
Another partner, Pluralsight, has provided all NRC staff with access to its education platform, helping to improve digital skills across the whole organisation. We recently had the opportunity to show Pluralsight the work we are doing at the border between Colombia and Venezuela. It was a really good experience for both us and them, as they could see first-hand the needs of the population and identify opportunities where digital skills within vulnerable communities could be useful.
What would you like to say in relation to International Girls in ICT Day?
I would like to motivate girls to not hesitate choosing STEM or ICT-related careers. I know from experience that it is not easy to survive in a masculine and competitive environment, but I see many opportunities for professional and personal development in this sector. Women can bring different perspectives on the use and adoption of technology, and with a collective approach, use technology for the greater good.
*STEM is a curriculum based on the idea of educating students in four specific disciplines; science, technology, engineering and mathematics.