Experts and stakeholders called for removing social barriers and building capacity and skills of the girls and women to reduce gender gap aiming to find better-paid jobs and start new businesses.
To this effect, they suggested addressing the barriers through proper schooling, incorporating core ICT education in school curriculum and publicity, investing and financing for capacity building and skills, policymakers’ role, increasing government’s monitoring and mentoring, and public and private partnerships.
Their call and recommendations came at a virtual roundtable styled ‘Accelerating Digital Inclusion for Girls and Women in a Safer Online World’ on Thursday.
Aspire to Innovate (a2i), Grameenphone and Plan International Bangladesh organised the programme aiming to bring multiple stakeholders in a common platform who have intention to work for girls and women to be in the ICT sector on occasion of the ‘International Girls in ICT Day’.
Zunaid Ahmed Palak, state minister for Information and Communication Technology (ICT) spoke at the function as the chief guest while Syed Tanvir Husain, chief human resource officer of Grameenphone and Orla Alicia Murphy, country director Plan International Bangladesh attended it as the special guests.
Dr Lafifa Jamal, professor, Department of Robotics and Mechatronics Engineering, University of Dhaka, moderated the consultation.
Syed Almas Kabir, president, Bangladesh Association of Software and Information Services, BASIS, Wahid Sharif, president, Bangladesh Association of Call Center and Outsourcing, BACCO, K A M Morshed, senior director, BRAC, Tina F Jabeen, CEO and managing director, Startup Bangladesh, Safa Jarin Sukonna, representative from Kishor Alo, Tusabber Muntaha, youth representative ,Centre for Services and Information Disability-CSID, Innovation to Inclusion-i2i project, among others, also were present the function.
Speaking at the roundtable, Mr Zunaid Ahmed Palak said to increase skill and capacity of girls and young women in the ICT sector, it is crucial to incorporate subjects like science, technology, engineering, mathematics (STEM) and so on in the national curriculum of primary education.
Terming that the need for learning programming and coding is increasing in today’s ICT sector, he also laid emphasis on ensuring a job-oriented education system keeping the opportunities and demand of future job sector.
Mr Palak said 35 thousand modern digital labs are going to be established all over the country which will encourage and give more access to girls and young women in ICT.
He also urged the need of collaborative effort in mentoring and monitoring from the government, non-government and private sector to ensure digital inclusion of girls and young women.
Tina F Jabeen emphasised changing perceptions and moving forward to ensure safety and security of women everywhere.
Sye Almas Kabir said in the ICT sector, now only 12 to 13 per cent are women while the number is much less in entrepreneurship, only 2-3 per cent.
He said from the marginal level to the urban area, women are becoming entrepreneurs using online platforms and growing self-reliant.
Urging for joint initiative, Wahid Sharif said the presence of women even in mid-level management of any organisation is still much less.
To increase the number, the country needs to focus on the education sector along with ensuring training, he added.
Professor Lafifa Jamal said providing incentive at primary and secondary education level, financial support at undergraduate level can also be a solution to encourage more girls to pursue ICT in their education and ensure greater participation.
Ms Orla Murphy said to ensure women leadership and gender equality, collaborative effort and partnership is must.
Plan International Bangladesh is willing to bring different aspects into that partnership. The impact of ICT is in every aspect of our lives, she added.
Terming that in future, almost all jobs will be ICT based, Mr Tanvir Husain said “That is why the initiatives we take today to ensure girls’ and women’s participation in ICT will ensure a greater workforce in future for us”.
Muntaha said one of the major challenges women in disability face in this sector is the wage gap, which is not acceptable at all.