With International Girls in ICT Day 2019 approaching this week, we are happy to share with the global ITU community all the exciting features of the SheLeadsIT ‘Caribbean Girls Hack’ hackathons across the region, and more – so to invite you to join with Caribbean girls building their capacities in the field of information and communication technology (ICT).
Hackathons will be held in Jamaica, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Grenada, Trinidad & Tobago, Grenada and Barbados between May 14 – 29.
At SheLeadsIT, a Caribbean non-governmental organization, we are passionate about advancing women’s economic empowerment, with a specific focus on bridging the digital skills gender gap for young women in order to build a pipeline of Caribbean women equipped for the Fourth Industrial Revolution. And we have created a dynamic 2019 program of activities in collaboration with Caribbean regional technology partner, Restore a Sense of I Can (RSC) Tech Clubs.
Since 2017, some 1100 girls have participated in hackathon activities using ICT tools to engage in hands-on activities, including mobile app development, animation, robotics, digital video, digital art, and web design, to generate solutions to social issues such as: crime and violence, drug abuse, cyber-bullying, environmental protection/climate change and agricultural sustainability.
The three main goals of the Hackathon initiative are to:
- Engage the girls in interactive problem-solving experiences, using technology as empowered change agents;
- Empower the girls to pursue studies and careers in ICT;
- Ensure that activities are engaging and fun!
Over the years, these hacker girls have also benefited from the insights of many role models (male and female) in technology from Google, LinkedIn, NASA, Facebook, Brocade and others via video conference.
They have also benefited from ‘SheTech Town Hall Meetings’ where Caribbean tech expert speakers at LinkedIn and Google have shared stories about their careers in tech. This has served as an incredible inspiration, motivating students to look beyond conventional career roles and to take full advantage of the new opportunities offered by the digital revolution.
This year, 1199 participants to date have already joined Caribbean Girls Hack interactive online training designed to:
- increase their awareness and sensitization on specific themes related to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs);
- introduce tools for problem solving and critical thinking;
- build leadership capabilities; and
- increase their tech skills in a competitive environment.
Tech experts will deliver training in various ICT activities and tools, including introduction to coding, podcasting, artificial intelligence (AI), social media campaign design and development, animation, video/documentary production, mobile app development, delivering a winning pitch and participating in cutting edge IBM technology training.
Since March 2019, this online training has reached stakeholders and hacker team representatives from some 70 schools, colleges and universities with a targeted focus to create solutions under the themes Gender Based Violence (#FutureSafeGirls) and Climate Change and Resilience (#ClimateSafeFutureSafe).
The girl hackers have proven that they are up for the challenge. Each year, they have worked feverishly against the clock, as they have designed their solutions and pitched to a panel of judges with winning solutions that have earned top team awards and prizes, with the prospect for direct benefit to our Caribbean communities.
Indeed, in one stellar example by a winning team, a ‘Minimum Viable Hack’ mobile app solution was developed named ‘GLAM99’ and the team has gone on to other events and is working to develop the product. GLAM 99, derived from the Geographic Location Accessories Marker 99, is designed as a jewelry accessory using embedded nano technology to confirm the location of a young woman, which is activated by her to enable her family and police to quickly come to her assistance in case of an attack.
These hackathons are multi-stakeholder events that exemplify the shared values, partnership and commitment amongst government, private sector, schools and NGOs, because they are all instrumental to increase the tech skills of girls, whilst fulfilling global gender and ICT priorities of the United Nations, both globally and regionally.
Since the beginning, the private sector companies across the region have been key stakeholders, translating their commitments to SDG 17 on partnerships to realize new futures for Caribbean young women in tech.
Most importantly, this has resulted in lasting gains, providing digital connectivity to some schools, internship jobs for students – and a permanent job as a Design Engineer for one winning hacker! She has continued to motivate and inspire girls across Jamaica and is a testimony to the long-term goals of the Caribbean Girls Hack initiative.
These girls are the future Caribbean women in tech leaders and they have the potential to make significant contributions to regional development.
This year, we already know that once again the competition will be fierce and although there are special prizes and winning team rewards, what we know for sure is that all the girls are already winners. Today they are more than tech consumers, they are tech creators!