Source: The NewTimes  

First Lady Jeannette Kagame and other representatives of governments and international organisations who attended the now-concluded Transform Africa Summit have expressed the need for strategic interventions to bridge the gender digital divide.

They were speaking during the inaugural Smart Africa Women's Summit at the three-day Transform Africa Summit which concluded yesterday in Kigali.

Mrs Kagame said that Smart Africa goals cannot be achieved without the involvement of women and girls and that to achieve it concerted efforts of all parties are required.

"We, as citizens of the world, are called to leverage our diverse positions to join governmental and non-governmental efforts for the inclusion of women and girls in the heart of the current ICT revolution," she said.

The First Lady congratulated all the participants that made it possible to draft the Smart Africa Women Declaration which is set for implementation, adding that she looked forward to full engagement of everyone to help bridge the digital divide, enabling women and girls to actively participate in the digital economy.

While technology has proved to be an enabler of economic transformation, the First Lady noted that modern society of digital age continues to show digital divide as women significantly have lower access to these technologies, and that countries should join forces to narrow the gender digital divide.

"Recognising the power of ICT to improve livelihoods, through increased access to information, products, and services, we simply could not ignore the need for platforms that celebrate, and encourage more women and girls, to pursue that field," she told the participants.

During the event, Zambian Vice-President Inonge Wina commended Rwandan government for the strides made to empower women and girls in many sectors of the economy.

"I want to underscore the progress made by Rwanda in achieving gender parity and equity in all spheres of development, especially in ICT, which forms the core of business for this Transform Africa Summit 2017," she said.

Investing in STEM education

For Africa to achieve gender parity and equity in this digital revolution, Wina suggested that countries must put more emphasis on education as well as infrastructure.

The Minister for Gender and Family Promotion, Espérance Nyirasafari, said there are principles which will drive the African continent from a digitally divided continent to an equally connected region.

"Today marks the start of convening the Smart Africa Women's Summit that will bring to the front the interventions to be pursued to empower women and girls in ICT across the continent," Nyirasafari said.

"Increasing access, affordability, and safety of women in tech; empowering women and girls with digital skills, and increasing participation of women and girls in STEM are the principles that will help us bridge the digital divide in Africa."

According to Nyirasafari, the highlighted principles were adopted by the Organisation of African First Ladies, academia and other women leaders under the Kigali Smart Africa Women Declaration which was discussed at the sidelines of the Summit.

Karen Bartleson, the president of Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), the world's largest technical professional organisation, said that countries need to invest in STEM education if they are to rapidly bridge the gender digital gap.

"When young girls and women across the world are exploring educational and professional possibilities in front of them, they are increasingly seeing role models in science and engineering that reminds them of themselves. All of us here today are part of these dynamic role models. Providing educational support in STEM fields is very critical," Bartleson said.

She added that a well qualified engineering workforce supported by the infrastructure and resources necessary to meet the needs of the population will be at the heart of Africa's digital transformation.

About the summit

Smart Africa Women's Summit was the main event at the closure of three-day Transform Africa Summit, which drew around 3,000 delegates.
The summit convened African government leaders and representatives, private sector players, development partners and organisations in ICT.

This year's summit main focus was on Smart Cities with an aim to ensure African capitals embrace technology to effectively deliver services.

The conference had about 10 side events across multiple topics, including Smart Africa Women's Summit, business leaders' symposium, business to business session and Ms. Geek Africa 2017 competition, among others.

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