Today marks a very important day on the Telecommunications and ICT calendar throughout the World. Today is World Telecommunication and Information Society Day (WTISD).
World Telecommunication Day has been celebrated annually on 17th of May since 1969, marking the founding of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and the signing of the first International Telegraph Convention in 1865.
In order to bring into focus the importance of ICT and the wide range of issues related to the Information Society, in November 2005, the World Summit on the Information Society called upon the UN General Assembly to declare 17th May as World Information Society Day. Since then we commemorate a combined World Telecommunications and Information Society Day.
The Commonwealth of Dominica, as a member of the ITU, joins in solidarity with the rest of the world in celebrating such an auspicious day – a day that holds significance, not only in its historical context but one that celebrates the successes and benefits of telecommunications and ICT in our socio-economic and cultural development and through stimulating dialogue, consultation and discussion, provides a platform for envisaging the vision of sustainable development through ICT in an eco-friendly world.
The purpose of World Telecommunication and Information Society Day (WTISD) is to help raise awareness of the possibilities that the use of the Internet and other information and communication technologies (ICT) can bring to societies and economies, as well as of ways to bridge the digital divide.
The theme for this year’s commemoration, “Women and Girls in ICT”, aims to ensure that women and girls here in Dominica and the world over, can progress as equals and can succeed as equals. This year’s theme is on the heels of celebrating “Girls in ICT DAY” on the 26th of April this year and from hereon annually, on the fourth Thursday of April. In my address on that day I highlighted the dearth of professional women in ICT and the need to enthuse and encourage our girls into avenues of ICT training in various fields that are necessary for our development. Moreover, this fits into Dominica’s wider international embrace that Gender equality is a basic human right enshrined in the UN Charter, and it is one of the main objectives of the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs): Goal 3 – Promote Gender Equality and Empower Women.
Today, and indeed throughout this week, provides us with opportunities to have stimulating reflection and exchanges of ideas on the theme “Women and Girls in ICT”. It provides a unique platform for discussing the various aspects of the theme with all partners in society. It also affords for formulating a perspective which reflects national discussions on the issues underlying the theme that will assist in guiding our long-term policy in ICT, in education curriculum and career development.
As we all are aware, Education lies at the very core of Dominica’s national development efforts. Establishing an innovative, entrepreneurial and technically smart workforce will be essential in Dominica achieving its long term growth, diversification and development goals.
ICT can be a most effective tool in transforming education and creating new skills across the entire population. It can allow our children to learn in fresh and innovative ways; discovering new knowledge, developing new abilities, stretching the imagination and encouraging collaboration. It can radically change the traditional classroom experience for children and teachers, and greatly improve and streamline educational administration.
The reach and versatility of ICT can also assist in developing new skills and careers for those outside the formal educational system; with distance and online learning providing greater flexibility for those who are working, or not in full-time education. It is for this reason we have encouraged schools to participate in commemorating today in various ways.
Considering that our education system is already providing equal opportunities for both boys and girls the important task for us is to stimulate that burning desire for girls to embrace all fields of ICT as possible career options and to cast aside the stereo-typical notion that exists that it is too complex or that it is a field for the Geeks – the nerd and Techy guy. One way is for our women who have succeeded in ICTs to have direct and constant interaction with our female population so that they can see and appreciate the outcomes of such pursuits and the lifelong fulfillment that can be derived both for one’s self and for the common good of society.
My Ministry, the Ministry of Information, Telecommunications & Constituency Empowerment, is collaborating with various institutions as The National Council of Women and the Bureau of Gender Affairs through live TV Panel discussions and other radio and television programmes. My ministry has also urged some of our telecommunications companies and institutions to hold an open day for girls in particular to highlight the influence of ICT in their daily operations. We have also sought the assistance and participation of a few of our more successful ICT Women: Lucia Stedman of BTC, Avril Coipel of AID Bank, Veronne Nicholas of the Dominica State College, and Jermaine Jean Pierre of the ICT Unit in the Ministry of Establishment.
I am of the firm belief that Dominica in the next few years will have a more balanced ICT Sector. I premise this on the fact that with greater awareness in the last few years more women and girls in Dominica are gravitating towards ICT and ICT related fields. We also have greater scholarship offerings in ICT related fields. And with consideration now being given to an establishment of the ICT Centre of Excellence will open up avenues for training that will usher a new set of opportunities for our girls and women wanting to pursue careers in ICT or ICT enabled endeavors.
Let me state clearly that ICT has permeated every career, from agriculture to medicine, from agronomy to aviation, from accounting to finance, from architecture to law – you will not escape it. Therefore I urge you to seriously contemplate on the changes that are taking place around you and adapt, improvise, overcome and succeed.
I wish all Women and girls, and indeed everyone in Dominica a wonderful World Telecommunication and Information Society Day!!
I thank you!!!