The slogan, “No child left behind”, became popular during the first decade of the 21st Century as the United States government sought to achieve certain ambitious benchmarks in their respective education sectors. If they were to eradicate illiteracy by a certain time frame; improve students’ test scores by a certain average; and/or achieve some other benchmark, the idea was that these benchmarks would become the standards by which that country’s education system could measure its effectiveness, as reflected in their students’ performance.
Other countries adopted the concept, which eventually became repurposed by the United Nations across many different sectors in its crafting of the Millennium Development Goals and subsequently the Sustainable Development Goals.
As national governments and regional bodies declare and strive to achieve their respective benchmarks in whichever area, the information and communications technology (ICT) sector has continued to be one domain in which girls, among their male counterparts, are usually left behind. In this regard, the words of former ITU Secretary-General Dr. Hamadoun I. Touré can be considered instructive.
In a speech delivered in 2012, Dr. Touré declared: “In a world where over 95% of all jobs now have a digital component, that means getting more girls involved in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), and more girls taking an interest in ICT careers.
“We still have a long way to go. Today, women perform two thirds of the world’s work, and produce half of the world’s food. But they earn just a tenth of the world’s income and they own just 1% of the world’s property.
“There is some good news, however… there are now more women CEOs leading Fortune 500 companies than ever before… and now including a significant number of tech companies, including Hewlett Packard, IBM and Xerox, all headed by women.
“But that still leaves 482 of the Fortune 500 companies being led by men, so we still have a way to go. On the government side, we have 16 women Ministers out of the 193 ITU Member States. Only 10 of the 158 independent ICT regulatory authorities worldwide are headed by a woman”, Dr. Toure concluded.
Today, our world is inundated by technology more than ever before. Now, instead of our children being left behind, children are leaving their parents and schools behind! In Liberia, the absence of libraries and other research materials, causes students to make use of their smartphones to quickly locate answers to their assignments and learn more about the world beyond their classrooms.
We should encourage our young women to pursue disciplines and careers in technology because they already have the interest and the ability to make use of it.
Why do we think that the first person to bring the Internet to Liberia was a Liberian woman—Mrs. Mai Urey, co-founder of Wulki Farm? She studied Computer Science in the United States and returned home as an experienced computer expert. Soon she was training banking staff in computer operations. She was the person who trained the staff of Meridien Bank in Freetown, Sierra Leone in the 1990s.
Mrs. Urey was one of the speakers at the “Breaking the Borders for Ladies in Technology” held in Monrovia last weekend. That is where she told the young people, mostly women, that it was she who first introduced the Internet to Liberia.
The keynote speaker, Madam Mariamu B. Fofana, Representative of District No. 4 in Lofa County, for her part, stressed the need for women around the world to achieve a level playing field by advancing themselves in information and communication Technology (ITC).
We are in the Age of Information, the sector that is currently dominating the world. Some of the most successful enterprises today are in this field. These include International Business Machines (IBM), Microsft, which made Bill Gates one of the world’s richest men; Facebook, the social network founded by another extraordinarily wealthy man, multi-billionaire Mark Zuckerberg; and Amazon, founded by Jeff Bezos.
The information field is so dynamic that it is very important and critical that our people, especially our women, many of whom are equally or even more intelligent than some of their male colleagues, should be encouraged to pursue this field and seriously undertake careers in it.
Who knows? One day some of our women could themselves become founders of high-tech ventures. The beginning is, just as our elementary and high school students are doing, using the technology and becoming conversant with it, to the extent of mastering it.
Many of our universities are now implementing ICT as strategic parts of their operations. In an Editorial just last week, we commended the University of Liberia for opening its first digital library, which has now exposed their students to information and education in the whole wide world.
Then there are other higher education institutions such as Starz Institute of Technology and BlueCrest University, offering serious courses in Information Technology, and many young women—and men—are flocking there to learn. We urge these institutions to improve and expand their courses in this vital subject, so that their students, when they leave those innovative halls of learning, may be ready for employment and entrepreneurship in information and communication technology.
We recognize two schools implementing STEM curricula at the elementary thru high school levels. They are the World Wide Mission School in Grand Bassa and the Cyber-ed Christian School of Excellence in Congo Town, Monrovia. We urge others to expose their students to STEM education in order to enhance their skills at problem solving through innovation and entrepreneurship. This will put them on top in all the subjects and better prepare them to enter university.
We commend Aisha Dukulé, the young, enterprising organizer of the “Ladies in Tech” seminar and her partners at Lonestar Cell MTN, including its CEO, Mrs. Uche Ofodie, for this important and innovative undertaking.
We encourage other GSM companies and most certainly the Liberian Telecommunication Authority (LTA) and the Liberian Telecommunications Corporation (LIBTELCO) to join in this noble and urgent initiative to help Liberian young people not only to enter but to excel in Information and Communication Technology.