The director-general of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Mallam Kashifu Abdullahi, has encouraged girls and women with relevant technological abilities to harness their potential by upscaling their skills to close the digital gender gap in the country.
Speaking during his goodwill message “Unleashing Innovation: Scaling Up Digital Skills for Women and Girls” during the 10th anniversary of the Nigeria Women in Information Technology (NIWIIT) National Conference in Lagos, he noted that bringing women to speed in the nation’s digital economy journey is critical to the country’s long-term prosperity.
Represented by the deputy director, the digital economy department, Dr. Amina Sambo, Abdullahi said women and girls account for more than 50 per cent of the population.
“At this age, building the digital skills of this population is one of the most strategic and wisest things any government could embark on to unleash innovation in entrepreneurship and other frontiers for social and economic growth,” he said.
The NITDA DG while commending the organisers for bringing the digital gender divide concerns to the front burner at its 7th National Conference, was optimistic that the panel discussion sessions will give great insights into creative approaches toward building the digital skills of the women in the most impactful manner.
He averred that the ongoing efforts will not only help the country to prepare girls and women for future opportunities but also for global competitiveness.
Abdullahi who referred to the African Developer Ecosystem report quoted that “Female career growth was heavily impacted as childcare and home responsibilities increased during COVID-19 lockdown’’.
The NITDA boss observed that women and girls are faced with fewer opportunities to develop and explore the heights of their potential, which are mostly attributed to limited support and placements for them, physiological reasons, and perceived relegation of women folk to home keeping and childbearing; thereby truncating the potentials women carry, long before they can be developed.
“These realities remain more dominant in the developing countries of the world. While women in first-world countries also deal with problems of career resilience, their counterparts in poorer countries have the other hurdles of poverty, poor healthcare, and low standard of living, to deal with daily, thereby depriving them of a conducive environment to develop their potential.”
The NITDA helmsman, however, expressed confidence in the possibility of changing the narrative with the growth in digital technology penetration and consumption in Nigeria; stressing that to fully harness the opportunities that abound; however, requires reorientation, contemporary training in digital literacy and skills, and training that will equip women and girls with the digital skills they need to participate in the ever-growing global digital economy which Oxford Economics values at $11.5 trillion or approximately 16 per cent of the global economy.
“Digital solutions and the requisite digital skills have the potential to create opportunities for women to make a difference in society and earn industry-standard fees for making such services available, further positioning themselves to export their skills internationally as real drivers of change”.
Having understood the potential of the value women can create, the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Abdullahi said, has been making significant strides to empower women in developing digital skills through the creation of various capacity-building programmes and initiatives to support digital entrepreneurship in women and also accelerate the achievement of the objectives of its digital literacy and skills strategy.
“We give women and girls special consideration in all of our initiatives and programmes. Women should not be discouraged; there are favourable reports about girls and women’s development. Therefore, there is a need to continue creating and strengthening awareness and preparing our women and girls for the challenge of today and preparing them for tomorrow’s opportunities,” the DG stressed.
Abdullahi, who maintained that the rapid rise of digital consumption in Nigeria has created a gap in the supply chain that highly skilled and trained women and girls in IT can fill, charged NIWIIT to create awareness of the need to continually build the digital skills needed to harness opportunities and create value that never existed before through innovations.
He assured the group that the agency is happy to be associated with the platform and will do its best to support the implementation of the conference’s recommendations to unleash spurge digital entrepreneurship innovations for everyone’s social and economic development.
Earlier, the president, Nigerian Women in Information Technology (NIWIIT), Dele Bayo-Osibo, while asserting that inclusion is the currency of the moment, in general, and digital inclusion in particular, affirmed that the urgency to be included in the moving train cannot be overemphasised and must be intentional.
“NIWIIT must take on the baton and contribute her quota to this clarion opportunity for building the Nation of the future”, she added.
The NITWIT president expressed appreciation to NITDA and other collaborators for identifying with the platform and its projections.
Other speakers also added their voices to the dire need of closing the digital gender gap for the collective prosperity of all, irrespective of gender, tribe, or political affiliations.