10th Anniversary of Girls in ICT Day: Malaysia celebrations

Plenary and Launching of Girls in ICT Day Malaysia 2021 Webinar

Selamat pagi and good morning to everybody.

YBhg. Dato Sri Haji Mohammad, Secretary General of Ministry of Communication and Multimedia

Atsuko Okuda, Regional Director, International Telecommunication Union (ITU)

Distinguished moderators, speakers, and participants,

It is wonderful to be here today and to witness the coming together of no less than 12 partners from government, private sector, civil society and UN agencies in the spirit of SDG 17: Partnerships for the goals – as we commemorate the auspicious:

10th anniversary of the International Girls in ICTs. Happy Girls in ICT Day!

As we all know the COVID-19 pandemic has unleashed an unprecedented crisis – both in terms of lives and livelihoods. It has revealed fundamental socio-economic gaps, including the differential in welfare and wellbeing of women and girls. 

But within the devasting whirlwind of the pandemic, lies an unprecedented opportunity to ‘shape the new normal’, i.e. to build back better and reduce inequalities, especially for women and girls.

And as we all know a core aspect of economic recovery is the world of Information and Communications Technologies (or ICTs), which has never before been more relevant to make our businesses competitive and efficient, to create new markets and jobs and has become a prerequisite to be able to live our daily lives.

And it holds much promise for women and girls; for gender equality and the empowerment of women everywhere.

Young women and girls still remain a minority when it comes to having high skill sets in Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics (STEM) and ICT. 

While girls across the world tend to outperform boys in reading and writing skills, they continue to be under-represented amongst top performers in the ICT sector.

Closer to home, across all major Southeast Asian economies, females represent more than 50% of all university graduates. However, the ratio of women to males in technology-related degrees – is significantly lower.

Girls - simply because of their gender rather than aptitude or capacity, are often set aside from math, engineering, and the so-called hard sciences.

The digital gender divide has broad ramifications on productivity, advancement, enjoyment of life, and development in general.

In Malaysia, it is commendable that there is gender parity among graduates in ICTs and other STEM fields. However, there is still room for improvement for the share of females at tertiary level in the area of engineering and ICT which stands at 27.1 % and 46% respectively.

Malaysia is a country with high percentage of individual internet users at more than 80%, and more than 100% active mobile broadband subscription.

ITU has developed program to support girls in ICT in the area of Smart Farming and Cyber safety to cultivate future entrepreneurs in the field of agriculture as well as promoting safe use of internet through its Child Online Protection guideline.

Promoting meaningful use of ICT is key as there has been rapid technological advances of the “Fourth Industrial Revolution”.

It presents young people with both opportunities and challenges in the labour market.

However, a large skills gap is emerging. While, tens of millions of jobs are opening up around the world for those with advanced digital skills -  there is a shortage of qualified people to fill these positions.

The World Economic Forum suggests that “the rapid evolution of machines and algorithms in the workplace could create 133 million new roles in place of 75 million that will be displaced between now and 2022”.

There is huge opportunity for women to be part of this growing digital labour market, where women are still a minority.

According to UNESCO, persisting issues such as - the gender gap between girls and boys in internet access; and in STEM education - adds to the challenge of addressing these gaps and will impact the trend and landscape of the workforce in the future.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Strengthening human capacities – both those of women and men - in emerging technologies is in line with the Malaysia’s aspiration to becoming a digitally-driven, high income nation and a regional leader in digital economy – as outlined in the recently announced Malaysia Digital Economy Blueprint.

ITU has been a strong advocate of empowering women through connectivity. One great example in the digital gender space is the EQUALS Global Partnership for Gender Equality in the Digital Age, which was founded in 2016 along with three key partners and has become by now a successful example of cooperation among more than 100 committed partners across 115 countries.

As we commemorate International Girls in ICT Day – it is important to send the message – that not only do girls need to get into ICT sectors, but equally important is that technology needs women and girls to drive social and economic growth that is progressive and at the same time humane and humanizing.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Ensuring that many more women and girls are able to participate and contribute to ICTs and the Digital Economy - is an essential part of building back stronger communities and economies, and addressing many of the world’s most pressing challenges – as we recover from the deadliest pandemic of our times.

Today, let’s recommit to the goal of equal access for young women and girls to opportunities in science, technology, engineering and math. 

Thank you.

 

Speech by
Author
Stefan Priesner
Resident Coordinator
UN
Stefan Priesner
UN entities involved in this initiative
RCO
United Nations Resident Coordinator Office