Accounting for well over 50% the country’s population, Nigerian women are critical to bridging the digital divide and are an essential vehicle for economic transformation, said Executive Vice Chairman (EVC) of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta.
The telecom regulator noted recently at a webinar organised by Zinari Communications Limited that it was strategic to empower women in ICT as they constitute an enabler for social change.
Built on the theme: “Mainstreaming Rural Women Enterprise Development into Digital Economy Initiative: The Opportunities, Strategies and Constraints,” Danbatta said women have been historically central to socio-economic and political development of any nation and stressed the need for nations to focus more on how ICT can be leveraged for increased empowerment for women.
“There has been a general concern that unless the gender divide between men and women is specifically addressed, there is a risk that ICT may worsen existing inequalities between women and men which could create new forms of inequality, saidDanbatta. He was represented by the Head, Online Media and Special Publication, NCC, Grace Ojougboh.
“However, if the gender dimensions of ICT in terms of access and use, capacity-building opportunities, employment and potential for empowerment are explicitly identified and addressed, ICT can be a powerful catalyst for political, economic and social empowerment of women, and the promotion of gender equality,” added Danbatta while advocating for increased collaboration between public and private-sector stakeholders toward advancing gender equality and women empowerment.
Young women and girls must be notably by encouraged to pursue studies and careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), said the telecoms regulator while assuring that the commission will continue to play a front-seat role in driving the implementation of the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy document (NDEPS) and the Nigeria National Broadband Plan (NNBP) as well as similar policies aimed at increased connectivity to all the citizens to bridge gender digital disparity.
He said the NCC constantly provides the necessary infrastructure that will guarantee ubiquitous access to telecoms services through the implementation of these policies while listing other initiatives undertaken by the Universal Service Provision Fund (USPF), all aimed at boosting connectivity and provision of ICT tools among citizens, regardless of gender, across the length and breadth of Nigeria. He listed the initiatives to include the Community Resource centers (CRS), School Knowledge Centers (SKC), E-accessibility projects, among others.
“There is no doubt that these efforts will facilitate development of a vibrant digital ecosystem where rural women can play very important roles in our socio-economic and political space,” he added.