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Message from Dr. Carla N. Barnett, Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretary-General, on the Occasion of International Girls in ICT Day, 25 April 2024

Greetings on International Girls in Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Day 2024.

This year’s CARICOM Girls in ICT Day ICT Partnership theme, Inspiring Youth Innovation, Leading Change in CARICOM resonates with the global theme of ‘Leadership’ declared by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU). The regional focus reflects the shared vision for a collective paradigm shift where girls and boys are empowered to innovate and lead using available tools. This theme also underscores shared commitment in fostering a culture where our youth are included today among change agents safe-guarding CARICOM’s future.

Globally, there is the persistent challenge of the widening digital gender gap with inequalities in access to technology, digital skills and online opportunities. There have been commendable strides, but the disparity in internet access and usage remains stark, particularly among women and girls in developing nations. Despite the recognition of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) as the driving force behind innovation, social well-being and sustainable development, girls and women remain significantly underrepresented in these fields, making up only 29% of the 2023 global workforce. The persistent gender imbalance in ICT careers remains entrenched.

Globally, as also reflected in the CARICOM Region, women are still missing from fields such as developing software, engineering, Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) research, academia, and policy making. Also, women leave science and technology jobs in higher numbers than men, which creates gaps for leadership, succession-planning and mentorship. 

Online harassment, cyberbullying and math-anxiety can create barriers for girls pursuing digital careers or participating in online spaces. It is important to address these issues through education, mentorship, and by creating inclusive environments to support girls who are pursuing careers in digital fields.

Amidst these challenges, we must redouble efforts to champion digital gender equality initiatives. Through strategic regional initiatives related to the CARICOM Single ICT Space, the CARICOM Human Resource Development Strategy, the CARICOM Digital Skills Taskforce and the CARICOM Girls in ICT Partnership, and related Member State activities, the groundwork is being developed for a more equitable future. This includes implementation of a range of digital skills and mentorship programmes, in addition to expanding opportunities in education and the workforce fostering inclusive growth and advancement.

The advent of additional career pathways for new and emerging technologies provides hope for a more equitable future. Careers such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) Prompt Engineer, AI Ethics Practitioner, Data Scientist, and Machine Learning Researcher, indicate the evolving landscape, and offer promising avenues for growth for both women and men. Just a glimpse into this new world of opportunity can make major differences for girls and boys who are encouraged to pursue these.

The gender disparities in STEM education and careers, particularly in the field of ICT, highlight a critical issue that requires continued urgent attention. In 2023, the CARICOM Girls in ICT Partnership, in collaboration with our esteemed partners from “Restore a Sense of I Can” (RSC) International, executed a STEM Career Webinar Series featuring a stellar lineup of CARICOM professionals and international experts, which illuminated diverse career pathways and addressed the intricacies of navigating STEM fields. These initiatives need to be continued, supported, and broadened to achieve meaningful change.

The future of our CARICOM youth depends on our steadfast dedication and commitment to helping the Region and its young people thrive in this digital age. Today, as we celebrate the outstanding regional and international achievements of women and girls in the ICT sector, let us reinforce our shared determination to amplify their voices and uplift their contributions. Let us unlock the full potential of our digital CARICOM by ensuring quality experiences, decent jobs and entrepreneurship opportunities for girls and women everywhere, through the transformative power of technology.

Happy International Girls in ICT Day 2024!

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