By Kemi Yesufu
Hajiya Dije Musa, an ICT manager in the Federal Ministry of Education, was the cynosure of all eyes when students from 18 schools in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) gathered to commemorate the 2017 edition of Girls in ICT Day on Wednesday May 17, 2017.
When Musa took the stage in the hall of the facilitator of the event, IBI Training Centre, Abuja, to speak as the representative of Nigerian Women in Information Technology, the large crowd of secondary school students, made up mostly of girls, didn’t know they were going to hear a story that would inspire and have them clapping at intervals in evident admiration.
Dressed in blue and orange ankara skirt-and-blouse, the education ministry ICT manager told the audience drawn from private and public schools her story. How she refused to give up on getting an education, even though she got married shortly after finishing primary school.
According to Musa, her parents succumbed to pressure from different suitors in her hometown in Niger State and gave her out in marriage at a young age, but she didn’t forget her dream of wanting to be a university graduate. Her dreams got stronger each time her friends came visiting from secondary school. Her former classmates’ visits left her crying for days and her tears soon moved her grandmother, who convinced her husband and other family members to allow her return to school.
Musa excelled in school, racing through Teachers Training College and university, despite the fact that she had two children during her schooling years and she combined school with her tailoring business to support her family. Now with a heavy workload and four kids to cater for, the ICT woman is about to complete an MSc degree in her chosen field even as she announced her wish of obtaining a PhD.
After her story, which had the students cheering and clapping, Musa delved into the technicalities of coding, which was the theme of this year’s Girls in ICT Day. She encouraged her audience, which absorbed every word she said, to take up careers in ICT, noting that like coding, most ventures in ICT become easy to execute once an individual understands the basics. “Women and girls should embrace IT in a changing world, where majority of the changes are coming from science and ICT”, Musa concluded.
If the eager students could relate to the much older female ICT guru, they soon met someone of their age, who got inspired during last year’s edition of Girls in ICT. Radhia Shamsudeen an old girl of the Zinaria International School Mararaba, Abuja, started her journey into ICT after the 2016 edition of the annual event.
It was at last year’s ceremony that she fell in love with coding. She called on her audience to carry out just a little research on Information Technology because most of the long-held assumptions of the work done in the sector were wrong.
“Ninety per cent of teenagers think ICT is boring, I did so too until I attended this event last year, where the presenters talked about things like programming, networking and cyber-security. I was here last year and people kept mentioning cyber-security. I did my research and found it interesting because I have always wanted to do some kind of detective work and with cyber-security I can stop hackers and cyber criminals”, Radhia said.
Speaking in support of the young cyber-crime fighter, representative of the National Information Technology Development Agency, Engr. Salisu Kaka, said cyber-security has become key to protecting the data of governments, individuals and institutions across the world, who use ICT to interact and transact business.
Kaka noted that the most recent cyber attack (the ransomware attack), which affected over a 100 countries has further shown the need for countries to ensure a good number of ICT experts to provide solutions, especially in crisis situations. He announced that NITDA would support Rahdia and other girls from the day’s event that were keen on seeking careers in ICT.
During his first time on the stage, the NITDA man urged girls to start looking at ICT a one of the sectors they could get into even as students or study courses relevant to the field. He noted that ICT not only gives girls a wide spectrum of choices in which field to work, it is also financially rewarding.
“Based on current global trends, I can assure you that: girls in ICT will never be out of work and will have much more flexibility in their work choices. ICT skills are highly transferable, which means you will be able to work almost anywhere in the world you want to and you will be at the exciting cutting edge of whatever field you choose to work in”, Kaka stated.
Adedayo Adeniyi a female ICT entrepreneur, who presented a paper entitled: “Why I Code”, revealed to the students that the first computer programmer recorded in history is English woman, Ada Lovelace, who was something of genius. Lovelace also excelled as a poet and mathematician-speaking four international languages.
Adeniyi, the founder of Daydah Concepts listed other female role models in ICT to include experts such as Hedy Lamarr, Susanne Kane, Marissa Mayer and Nigerian female entrepreneurs who have excelled using ICT such as Funke Opeke of Main One Cable System, Uche Pedro of Bella Naija and Nigeria’s number one blogger, Linda Ikeji.
The Daydah Concept, Managing Partner who showed students how to code during a short interactive presentation, however admonished that they should seek ICT skills that are problem solving, especially as they live in a developing country in which many of its people can be helped to be more productive through the introduction of ICT into their businesses.