Statement: Girls In ICT Day 2021

Date: Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Across the Caribbean, there are millions of girls who could right now be learning from home – if only they were connected. On International Girls in ICT Day, we encourage governments not to leave these girls behind.

This year marks the 10th anniversary of International Girls in ICT Day with the theme, “Connected girls, creating brighter futures”. This means that now more than ever before, we must equip our girls with the skills to shape the world we would like to see. Gender equality is not just a goal: it is critical to the survival of the planet, realizing the rights of all girls, and building new economic and social systems that include, and work for, everyone. Strengthening all girls’ skills and voices, including girls in rural communities, by leaving no one behind in STEM, is a collective responsibility all CARICOM governments must share.

The COVID-19 crisis has laid bare and exacerbated the growing digital divide within, between and across developed and developing countries, particularly in terms of the availability, affordability and use of information ICTs and access to the internet, deepening existing inequalities, including for girls. The lockdowns experienced widely across the region has stymied any progress made in the last 10 years in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) and stalled learning opportunities for two-thirds of the world’s children. The Digital2021 Report published by We Are Social and Hootsuite states that 17 million people in the Caribbean are not connected to the internet in 2020. These digital disparities reflect the inequality and discrimination that exists in all our societies, especially for the least privileged.

Without access to online and mobile learning, girls face damaging exclusion from STEM subjects which are already male dominated. Yet there are clear signs of change. In the Caribbean, 60% of the population have access to the Internet and 51% are active social media users with a 4.3% year-on-year growth even in the middle of a pandemic. The Digital2021 Report also highlighted a total of over 1.06 Million Instagram users and 616 Thousand Twitter users in the 22 countries the UN Women Multi Country Office serves. We must ensure that this continues and expands in every part of the region to equalize access so that young people can capitalize on all the benefits of the digital world.

It is critical to ensure Governments strive to provide universal and affordable access to the Internet in least developed countries by 2030 as one of the targets of the Sustainable Development Goals. We need to assure full connectivity for everyone and to cater for those who are not online to Build Back Equal.