Tue | Aug 9, 2022

Youth Can Do I.T. aims to increase the number of women in ICT

Published:Friday | May 20, 2022 | 12:06 AMAsha Wilks/Gleaner Writer
Cherika Wilson in Oculus (virtual reality) headset.
Cherika Wilson in Oculus (virtual reality) headset.
YCDI Team-Seated from left: Kayla Mendez, change Agent, Lianne McNaugton, managing director, YCDI, Dr. Terri-Karelle Reid, Olivia Williams, change agent,  Cherika Wilson, head of People Ops, YCDI; Standing from left are: Christopher Derrell (CTO, YCDI), Sh
YCDI Team-Seated from left: Kayla Mendez, change Agent, Lianne McNaugton, managing director, YCDI, Dr. Terri-Karelle Reid, Olivia Williams, change agent, Cherika Wilson, head of People Ops, YCDI; Standing from left are: Christopher Derrell (CTO, YCDI), Sheldon Powe (CEO 10x), Nathaniel Christie, change Agent, Kareem Ellis, change agent.
1
2

Youth Can Do I.T. (YCDI) Foundation Limited continues to target young people in an effort to effectively equip them to become competitive individuals in an ever-evolving world employment since the introduction of the Internet and its wide and diverse use in today’s society.

With a special focus on young girls, the YCDI has dedicated itself to increasing the number of women in the information and communications technology (ICT) professional field in Jamaica.

In a recent Gleaner interview, Cherika Wilson, head of People Operations at YCDI, expressed the organisation’s vision to empower a generation of creators to be change agents in their lives, communities and the world at large.

But it was imperative to get girls on board, especially due to the disproportion in the number of female students as opposed to male ones who pursue a study in technology in Jamaican schools.

“If we are going to be competitive as a country, a region, then we also need to increase the capacity of our workforce [and] to be able to enter into a lot of these [areas] and to be leaders ... creators ... [and] to tek up space,” she said.

In doing so, women need to be a part of the wider discussions being had. “And wherever you have more people represented, more perspectives represented, we have more innovation. So, if we leave girls out of the conversation, we’re gonna hinder our own growth,” she added.

SELF-ACTUALISATION

On April 28, YCDI celebrated women in technology and stepped into the metaverse with its third staging of its signature #iamWITy (I am a woman in technology) event held on International Girls in ICT Day under the theme ‘the future is now! Do we have the talent to create it?’

During the event, 14 local and international women in technology shared their stories and overall insights on the theme.

Founded in Jamaica in 2016, the foundation was born out of the desire to use technology and self-actualisation as the catalyst for capacity building among youth.

“What we want to get across is that we are living in an age where is not just tech and then everything else. Tech is infused in everything that we do,” said Wilson.

Programmes offered by the foundation consist of the YCDI Ambassadors, Women in Tech, and summer camps.

The youngsters are also taught during workshops on scratch coding and web development. Coupled with these skills learned, students are engaged in mentorship sessions for personal development.

“Yes, the skills are important but how are you seeing and thinking about yourself, how are you thinking about what’s possible? So we want to ensure that people leave here with the mindset ‘I’m not limited or confined to this’,” she said.

Youth from as early as the primary level going into high school are engaged in the programmes. Final-year high schoolers are taught how to be ‘change agents’ to assist the instructors of the programme by forming what is called the ‘core team’.

Digital learning day observed worldwide on February 22 was a special time for the foundation in teaching primary school students the basics of technology while celebrating digital technology.

However, Wilson asserts that “the reality is, to be competitive as an individual you have to have some of these basic skills,” which will open individuals to vast possibilities and opportunities.

She added that Jamaicans need to build upon things that are intrinsic to Jamaica and the Caribbean and market on them as opposed to being “a passive accepter of things that are happening” within the world.

Though the concept of the metaverse is not a new one, Wilson explained that there has been a variety of versions of the online social space, such examples inclusive of the terms virtual and blended realities.

The metaverse, however, she added, is an immersive experience where persons can choose an avatar and enter into a virtual world with the aim of socially connecting and having engaging experiences that they would have been limited to previously.

“I think it is something that’s here to stay. I think it continues to be something that is evolving in terms of where it will go and how blended the different realities will become,” Wilson said.

Christopher Derell, chief technology officer at YCDI, explains because getting lost in Meta Spaces is a present risk, with the lack of a global framework for structuring Codes of Ethics the policy development is at the forefront in proceeding forward.

“We need to start looking at policy development, today. Otherwise, we’ll be left with exploitation without equity and the metaverse will not be something that reaches mainstream,” he explained.

For those interested in joining the YCDI group they can be contacted through their website at www.ycdi.online and can be found on Instagram @youthcandoit.

asha.wilks@gleanerjm.com