ABUJA, NIGERIA – Nigerian technologist Chinenye Udeh wants to ensure schoolgirls learn Information and Communications Technology (ICT) for summer. Udeh says she is trying to boost gender parity in technology in Africa’s most populous nation, where less than 20 percent of women are involved in the industry.
Girls between the ages of five and 17 chatter at a tech-based facility in the city center, where they converge to learn skills that include coding, animation and robotics for one month this summer.
The program, known as the Smart Girls Tech Camp, was conceived by Nigerian female technologist Chinenye Udeh.
She says she’s tackling gender inequality in Nigeria’s tech sector with this project.
“What we’re trying to do is, how can we get these girls abreast? How can we let them know that it’s important that they get involved in technology, no matter how little? The knowledge is very important in their daily lives, businesses and careers, moving forward,” Udeh said.
Nigeria’s bureau of statistics says women occupy only about 20 percent of the technology sector.
The smart girls tech program hopes to improve that. The program targets 1,000 young girls every year and prepares them for a future in technology.
Tech expert and instructor Onyedinma Onyekachi says progress has being made so far.
“From where we met them and where they are now is not the same, and we discovered it’s as a result of psyche. There was a notion that girls don’t like tech, but we discovered that girls actually are enthusiastic about tech, it’s just the approach, just the way technology is being introduced to them,” Onyekachi said.
For young girls, like aspiring animator Damilola Ojo, technology could be their entry to a booming market dominated by men.
“When I was younger, I was very interested in cartoons and the way they were made. So when I searched up, usually on YouTube, I saw that it involved ICT, and so I became more and more interested,” Ojo said.
Ten-year-old Ruby Dike, who is more interested in robotics, says it could have several applications.
“Let’s say I’m able to program a robot to help in the house, or I’m able to program a robot that can control global warming …,” Dike said.
Nigeria’s ICT industry is among the largest in Africa, and it keeps growing rapidly. It has evolved into a multi-billion-dollar industry within the last decade.
However, it is characterized by low female representation like many other sectors. People like Udeh are breaking the norms with tech programs for young girls.
Although it could take a while before this translates into substantial female representation in the industry, it is making an impact on the girls.