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Girls in ICT Day aims to spark tech interest

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Today, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the global technology community and an expected 170 countries will celebrate Girls in ICT Day, an international day observed by the United Nations to help bridge the gender digital divide.

Hundreds of events are planned worldwide aimed at inspiring a new generation of girls to explore the exciting opportunities offered by a career in information and communication technology (ICT), says ITU.

ITU estimates that within the next 10 years, there will be more than two million technology jobs that cannot be filled because of a lack of digital specialists.

It points out that girls and young women who learn coding, app development and computer science will be well-placed for a successful career in the ICT sector, while advanced digital skills are rapidly becoming a strong advantage for students in almost any other field they might choose to pursue.

According to ITU, digital skills give qualified girls an edge in a competitive job market, provide a higher salary and enhance career mobility.

This year, ITU is celebrating Girls in ICT Day at the African Union Commission in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

It says the special focus on Africa recognises the enormous potential for leveraging ICT to drive economic growth and development, and accelerate progress towards all 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

As well as having the lowest rate of Internet penetration, the African region has the widest digital gender gap in the world with only 18.6% of women using the Internet, compared with 24.9% of men, ITU notes.

"Girls in ICT Day is a call to action to inspire the next generation of girls and young women to learn more about the exciting world of tech," says ITU secretary-general Houlin Zhao.

"As the head of the lead UN agency for ICTs and an international gender champion, I am committed to pressing for progress for gender equality inside and outside ITU. Not only is gender equality key to ensuring no one is left behind, it is an essential element to the success of every single one of the Sustainable Development Goals."

Girls in ICT Day is celebrated annually on the fourth Thursday in April. Since it was established in 2010, the event has generated over 11 000 events in 171 countries, reaching more than 350 000 young women.

Hundreds of organisers and thousands of girls and young women have become part of this global movement, including ITU member states and private sector members, ITU academia members, schools, universities and NGOs around the world.

"I am proud that Girls in ICT Day has grown into one of ITU's most successful global campaigns," says Doreen Bogdan-Martin, director of ITU's Telecommunication Development Bureau, which leads the global Girls in ICT Day initiative.

"Technology is one of the most powerful tools we have for empowering women and girls. An ICT career gives girls the chance to be at the heart of the world's most exciting and fastest-growing industry. And the ICT industry needs women to play an equal role in the creation, design and implementation of the devices and platforms that are becoming indispensable to the way we live."

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