Digital technologies have created new spaces for interaction and enabled new ways to connect, share experiences, work and build communities. It is estimated that by 2030 in Sub-Saharan Africa alone more than 230 million jobs will require digital skill sets. The Information and Communications Technology (ICT) sector has always been a male-dominated industry. In 2022, it was estimated that women made up only 27% of the tech industry. Even more alarming is the mere 6% of women in app development.
Unfortunately, this digital divide is exacerbated in Africa, and countries with historic or systemic socio-economic empowerment. As one of the fastest growing industries globally, it is concerning that women, who make up 50% of the workforce, make up less than 30% of ICT workers in Sub-Saharan Africa.
IYF’s digital empowerment program, Skills for Success (S4S), has been addressing this gap, giving students the opportunity to enroll in a variety of ICT courses certified by Google, including professional certificates in IT, UX Design, Data Analytics, Project Management and Digital Marketing & E-Commerce. Currently, 80% of the program’s enrolled learners are women.
Thus far, over 3000 people have enrolled in the S4S program, with more learners being onboarded as the programs expands. What has set S4S apart from many other educational ICT program is its holistic structure, which not only attends to hard skills required in the ICT sector, but also soft skills such as constructing a CV, and base-entrepreneurship skillsets, designed to provide students with the tools required to launch their own businesses. This push towards entrepreneurship addresses another socio-economic inequality – the lack of women-owned SMMEs. Women own only 36% of all small businesses worldwide, a figure that is amplified in lower-income countries.
The program has been rolled out in three African countries – South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria, receiving positive responses from enrolled learners and graduates, who have embraced their newfound IT skills and entrepreneurial learning. A female Nigerian learner spoke on the course’s effect saying, “I have strong desire to share the knowledge I’ve gained with others, with a particular focus on empowering females through the transfer of these valuable expertise.”
International Women in Cyber Day (1 September) draws awareness to the gender gaps in the ICT sector and recognises the need for more diversity in the industry. The IYF is not only committed to proliferating this awareness, but more importantly, actioning sustainable change in the sector through S4S. Inequities in ICT knowledge and employment is not something that will be fixed overnight, but change will only come through methods that empower those interested in pursuing ICT with an accessible, sustainable and practical program that has a tangible impact.
And we are already seeing the results of the Skills for Success program, to date more than 1200 livelihood opportunities have been documented as well as a marked increase in the job security and earning potential of graduates. S4S’s achievements are undoubtedly changing the gender landscape of the ICT sector in Africa and moving the needle further towards a more equitable economy.
Importantly, there is a butterfly effect to S4S program. Forbes recognised that 60.2% of gender diverse companies reported increased profits and productivity, suggesting that companies that embrace gender equity are ultimately more likely to succeed, and more likely to bolster economies. With S4S providing an accessible pipeline of women learners into the ICT industry, the effect is not only the empowerment of women, but the growth of the ICT sector, whilst providing solid foundations for a strengthened economy.