By ANA VURU
A regional meeting under way in Nadi has been told that the Fijian Government recognises the importance of and potential that ICTs offer in realising its vision of empowered Fijians and a modern economy.
Minister for Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation Rosy Sofia Akbar says this is why the Government has taken a number of steps such as the liberalisation of the telecommunications sector.
- The launch of the national broad-band policy, which is the first for any South Pacific Island nation;
- The provision of free telecentres;
- The implementation of the spectrum plan which has, amongst other things, allowed for another free to air television; and
- The growing interaction and collaboration by the Fijian Government with ITU.
Mrs Akbar made the comments as she opened the Pacific Media Partnership Conference at the Sheraton Resort on Denarau and said gender was an important factor as well.
Women and girls must not be excluded from access to knowledge, informed choices and opportunities for empowerment. To guarantee this, we need pro-women policies at all levels, we need a change the mindset to acknowledge and promote that ICT careers are viable opportunity for girls as much as for boys, she said.
There is gender disproportion in the ICT sector and necessary steps to eliminate the gaps at hand are a responsible approach towards gender equality and empowerment. It is my plea that bold steps be undertaken to impact the imbalance we face right now.
In many countries, ICT is perceived as a male-dominated industry. The rapid development and growth of employment in ICT sector does not come with equal female-male representation. In fact with a boost in the ICT industry, the gender imbalance becomes more obvious. Surely we can change that through country commitments and frameworks of actions monitored for performance based results.
While Information, Communications and Technologies(ICT) may not be an end in itself, our Pacific leaders recognise that it has a key role to play in our economic development and at the same time promote and enhance social cohesion, cultural enrichment and environmental conservation. Pacific Ministers for Information & Communication Technology (ICT) have committed to using ICT as a key tool for the development, governance and sustainable livelihood of the people in the region.
There are challenges faced in the Pacific when we plan for universal coverage for telecommunication access. The lack of infrastructure, isolation of certain communities, scattered population distribution in maritime areas and other geographical barriers do contribute to the high costs in implementing connectivity plans.
Therefore a call for increased co-ordination among all stakeholders in the Pacific at regional, sub?regional and national levels to consolidate efforts to improve connectivity to benefit men, women and children equally and to ensure that ICT will bridge the gender divide in our communities and our nation should be a priority.
As people of the Pacific, we welcome the assistance provided and offered by our regional and international development and donor agencies in this regard.
The feminisation of lower income and less value jobs in ICT sector remains in many countries. According to UN Women, some research found that women accounted for 30 per cent of IT operations technicians, a mere 15 per cent of ICT managers and only 11 per cent of IT strategy and planning professionals. For the Public Sector in Fiji, females comprise of about 23% of the Senior Managerial positions while 73% are held by males (PSC Civil List, 2012).
Mrs Akbar said Fijis National Gender Policy was a culmination of work with UN Women and was approved by Cabinet early this year.
Gender mainstreaming is regarded in all government agencies and there are greater partnership arrangements. Our policy promotes gender equity, equality, social justice and sustainable development, she said.
For women in the Pacific to fully benefit from such technology, literacy, language, computer skills and information literacy are critical. Women and girls not only need to access these opportunities, but these opportunities need to be tailor made to be gender friendly to meet the diverse cultures and vernacular needs of our people in the region.