The Girls in ICT Day was observed for the first time in Papua New Guinea (PNG) on Thursday, 26th April, 2012 by way of a launching ceremony organised by the National Information and Communications Technology Authority (NICTA).
The venue was the Gateway Hotel in the nation’s capital of Port Moresby where in attendance were representatives from the ICT industry that included mobile and fixed line carriers, female students and ICT Teachers from few Secondary schools, the Media and TV Crew and the CEO, Senior Management and female staff of NICTA.
The then Minister for the Ministry of Information and Communications, the Honourable Minister Mr. Jimmy Miringtoro, gave the Key-Note address. His speech and presence gave prominence to the day.
In his speech, the Minister made few notable remarks.
He clearly re-sounded the need for women to be recognised as key partners in the development of PNG and in particular the ICT sector.
Gender equality is an important international agenda and the Minister further commended ITU for highlighting this fact. Also the initiative to establish the girls day is an excellent means to correct the gender imbalance that exists in the ICT sector worldwide.
Like women in other developing countries, women in PNG face constant challenges and one of them is equal access to education. Girls are still less likely to be in school than boys, he goes on to say. This clearly affects the number of females entering Tertiary level education hence fewer girls going into ICT.
He finally remarks that this trend should start to change with initiatives such as this one by ITU and especially so with NICTA taking the lead in PNG.
During the launch two female ICT engineers were also given the opportunity to speak of their experience and day-to-day challenges faced in this male-dominated sector. Their main theme was woman and girls in PNG can do ICT and they need to rise above the old aged stigma that ICT or technical occupations are only for man. This was well received by the audience especially the school girls of grades 11 and 12 who gave loud applause and cheers.
Toward the end of the launch an essay competition was announced on the theme “Women and girls in ICT” and to answer the essay question “WHY is it that fewer females venture into the ICT Industry and HOW can we change this Trend and get more females interested in venturing into ICT Industry?” The competition was open to only girls in grades 11 and 12 throughout the country.
With overwhelming support from sponsors within the ICT sector six major prizes were finally awarded to the winners with the best essays. The awards ceremony coincided with the World Telecommunication and Information Society Day that was held on May 17th 2012. Consolation prizes were also given out to all the other entrants numbering fifty.
Digicel PNG Ltd (mobile carrier) put their hand up to be the major sponsor offering five tablet computers, two Samsung and three Motorola, while Daltron (ISP) offered a Dell lap top. The other worthy sponsors were Telikom PNG (fixed line carrier), Datec (ISP), BSP (commercial bank) and NICTA that donated desk top computers, flash drives and gift bags containing mobile phones and other accessories.
Complementary prize of a desk top computer was also given away to the respective school of the winners as a way to raise more awareness on the issue.
As part of the launching also, T-Shirts, Gifts Bags, Banner, Pamphlets, Brochures and Posters were given away to all attendees of the event.
For the short to medium term moving forward, a number of interesting activities have been envisaged to commemorate the girls day. The essay competition may become a tradition and will be used to create awareness on the issue of gender balance in ICT. It may also be used to gather ideas on how to get more girls and women into ICT or how ICT can become an empowering tool for females.
It is also planned that a women and girls association be incorporated to drive the agenda. NICTA, through the office of its CEO, is making an undertaking to set-up a scholarship fund for girls entering tertiary level education to study in ICT. An open day or expo where school aged girls can attend and get more info on ICT is another good idea that is also being discussed. This may include visits to ICT companies and meetings with senior female ICT staff of those companies.
Another good program being thought off is a mentoring program of some sort. The aim is to get senior females in the ICT sector to adopt young females coming up in the industry and to mentor them over a certain period.
Papua New Guinea, through NICTA, is proud to be a supporter of the Girls in ICT Day and endeavours to see the aims of the day which were established by ITU are sufficiently met in the years to come.