Sun | Dec 16, 2018

ICT, gender specialist urges innovation above consumption

Published:Friday | April 27, 2018 | 12:00 AMPaul Clarke/Gleaner Writer
Ayanna Samuels (second left), challenge master and rocket scientist, explains an App on her Ipad to, from left, Komoy Haye, student at the University of the West Indies (UWI), Rhian Jones,student at the AISK and Hope McMillian-Canaan, public and corporate affairs manager, Scotiabank, during Girls in ICT Day Caribbean Hackathon 2018 held at the Mona Visitors Lodge, UWI yesterday.

Ayanna Samuels, information and communications technologies (ICTs) and gender policy specialist, says that despite strides made in the ICT sector during recent years, it is unfortunate that most Jamaicans are consumers of technology rather than innovators and jobs creators for future national development.

Samuels was speaking at the Girls in IT Day 2018 Caribbean Hackathon, which was held yesterday at the University of the West Indies, Mona Visitors' Lodge.

Girls in IT Day is recognised internationally across more than 100 countries. It celebrates girls pursuing careers and studies in ICT.

Samuels said that the idea that technology should be consumed with little or no innovation was not a worthwhile practice and has urged innovation above consumption as Jamaica advances in the sector.

"Take, for example, our use of social media. It is more than just a social engine. I am motivated, for instance, by a young woman based in the United States who loves to cook and has used social media to create a massive following around healthy eating.

"I am not saying this is not happening here, but it's not in the kind of numbers that would speak to a groundswell of innovative ideas that can help bring Jamaica more quickly into the full stream of this technological age," Samuels said.

She said that the potential that ICT provided could only be limited by the lack of critical and analytical thinking and that the International Girls In IT Day provided the right forum to show young ladies the value of being involved in the sector.

Bridget Lewis, co-founder of 'She Leads IT' and one of the organisers of Girls In IT, told The Gleaner that the idea behind the event, now in its seventh year, was to move girls away from the typical ways in which they engaged with technology.

She said that girls being involved in ICT was extremely important because they were not traditionally known to occupy this sector. Lewis added that within 10 years, approxi-mately 80 per cent of jobs were going to require some element of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects.

"If we do not engage girls in technology, they are going to be left behind. So we see where STEM is going to be more important, hence the Girls In IT and its significance," Lewis said.

paul.clarke@gleanerjm.com