The Minister for Communications and Digitalisation, Mrs. Ursula Owusu-Ekuful, has stressed the need to bridge the digital gender disparity, especially in an era where technology is driving the future of jobs, innovation, social wellbeing, inclusive growth and sustainable development.
“Nation building requires the contribution of all, and technology is the key driver of growth and economic and social transformation in the recent history of the world,” she said at the 75th anniversary celebration of St Monica’s Old Students Association (SMOSA) at the Fiesta Royale Hotel in Accra.
“Even though we see prospects, the digital revolution is revealing an underrepresentation of women in terms of contributing to this transformation,” she added.
According to her, the gross under-representation of girls in Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) disciplines is not just an educational challenge but a developmental concern which needs to be addressed “if we are to harness the benefits technology offers for our people”.
She made particular reference to a 2017 UNESCO report titled “Cracking the code: Girls’ and women’s education in STEM”, which estimated that only 35 percent of STEM students in higher education globally are women, with differences observed within STEM disciplines and specific countries.
“The picture is even more worrying when it comes to information and communication technologies. It is estimated that only 3 percent of female students in higher education opt for information and communication technology (ICT) studies, which also means women make up just a fraction of the workforce in these STEM-related fields,” she said.
“It is also estimated that women hold just 24 percent of all jobs in the digital economy as at 2018 and the statistics have not changed,” she added.
To address the digital gender gap, there is a need to increase access to the internet by investing in infrastructure to extend coverage in underserved areas, increase levels of digital literacy through ICT education, and ensure online safety by intensifying awareness creation, she said.
The minister said her outfit is poised to facilitate the adoption and use of technology in all sectors of the economy, including education, as part of the digital transformation agenda to engender efficiency, improve productivity and facilitate growth.
“Government is taking cybersecurity seriously because it has potential to undermine all the gains we have made with respect to the use of technology, especially by women and girls. In this respect, the Cyber Security Law has been passed [and] there is also provision made for dedicated funding for the Cyber Security Authority,” she added.