Tuesday 31 March, 2020

Global tech initiative shines spotlight on Jamaican girls in ICT

Over 300 girls will represent Jamaica’s rising talent in the ICT sector on Tuesday as they take part in a Caribbean hackathon in observance of International Girls in ICT Day celebrations across the world.

The Hackathon, which is organised by SheLeadsIT co-founders Bridget Lewis and Nicole Pitter Patterson, encourages and empowers young women to pursue studies and careers in ICT.

This year’s programme takes place in five Caribbean countries: Jamaica, Grenada, Trinidad and Tobago, St Vincent and the Grenadines, and Barbados, and is run in collaboration with Caribbean regional technology partner, Restore a Sense of I Can (RSC) Tech Clubs, and with the support of the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (UNECLAC).

The cohort of bright Jamaican girls hail from over 20 schools and universities across the island and are part of a wider global initiative created to fill the gender gap for females in the technology sector.

Across the Caribbean, girls engaged in a two-month immersive webinar-based training, involving activities with international tech mentors and other subject matter experts, to creatively problem solve around 2019 programme’s two core causes - gender-based violence, and climate change and Resilience.

The public can follow their progress on social media using hashtags #FutureSafeGirls and #ClimateSafeFutureSafe.

Participant Juleen Gentles of the University of Technology Jamaica, shared her excitement.

“We’ve been really focused on our preparation over the last couple of months. It has been a real eye opener learning new skills   and interacting with this network of mentors and participants. I really can’t wait for Jamaica to see what we’re bringing,” Gentles said.

The Jamaican arm of the initiative culminates its activities in a Hackathon and Interactive Tech Expo to be held on Tuesday May 14 at the Chinese Benevolent Association, where the girls will work under a ticking clock to refine their solutions and be judged by a panel. The winners will receive prizes including cash, tech gadgets, as well as learning opportunities such as internships, and scholarships to tech camps.

Lewis noted the global impact of the programme.

“Globally the jobs of the future are becoming heavily tech based, but tech is still a space which is highly male dominated. Girls and women face many barriers to entry and are not encouraged or given the tech skills necessary to properly equip them for these jobs,” Lewis said. 

Her partner, Pitter Patterson added “Girls in ICT Day brings awareness to the need for women to take part in the future of ICT, it is essential that all persons interested in the field are included , so that capable and talented girls don’t get overlooked.”  

The wide-reaching importance of this initiative has garnered high praise from an unlikely pairing of sponsors, Scotiabank and NCB .

Yanique Forbes-Patrick , director of public affairs and communications for Scotiabank Caribbean said “Scotiabank is very excited to be a part of Caribbean Girls Hack - Girls in ICT Day 2019 across Barbados, Jamaica, and Trinidad & Tobago. This initiative is an excellent fit for us as not only are we committed to becoming a digital leader in the financial services industry but we are also steadfast in our commitment to helping young people become better off and discovering their full potential.”

Meanwhile, Nadeen Matthews-Blair, chief marketing and digital officer with sponsors NCB, explained that the bank’s support comes from a focus on building the country’s ICT infrastructure, “Through our Agile Lab NCB has experienced for ourselves how the contributions of women in tech are invaluable. Getting the best tech talent into the Jamaican workforce is imperative, which means there must be space for everyone to learn, including girls.”

Other sponsors include CIBC – First Caribbean International Bank, Loop News and Production Partner - Phase 3.

The event is powered by FLOW.

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