Deputy Minister Pinky Kekana: SA Women in ICT Forum

30 August 2019

Deputy Minister Pinky Kekana Keynote Address SA Women in ICT Forum University of Pretoria, South Africa, 30 August 2019

Programme Director
CEO of the South African Women in ICT Forum, Ms Zine Nkukwana
The ChairWOMAN of the South African Women in ICT Forum, Ms Mameetse Masemola
The board members of the South African Women in ICT Forum
Young ladies, ladies and gentlemen

Good morning to you all on this penultimate day of women’s month 2019.

‘Lift as we rise’ … what a powerful statement!
But, what does it mean?
As a very proud patron of the South African Women in ICT Forum, this is my take on what that statement means to me :

To me it means that we selflessly understand the needs of others in the context of our own, and as we work towards our own goals, we work to support the dreams and goals of other people. It also means that others begin to take notice of us as an accumulative, and that’s how we change the world, to make it a better place, one person at a time, one woman at a time!

It is a pleasure to be here with all of you today, during this women’s month in South Africa, as we commemorate the women of 1956 who bravely marched to the Union Buildings, demanding for the emancipation of women. Throughout this month in attending workshops, conferences and seminars, I heard of the challenges we still face in the work place, and in this sector particularly, in trying to overcome the challenges of the digital gender divide. We, the leaders in this room need to make it OUR responsibility to ensure equitable and sustainable representation of women in the sector, where women are playing a vital role and making significant contributions, and impacting lives. Remember, we LIFT as we RISE. We must take others with us, as we move forward and upwards.

So, what do I mean when I say we need to ensure we need to impact lives, because for me, that’s what it’s all about after all, that’s what I want to be remembered for. It means that more deliberate and action-oriented efforts are needed to ensure equal ACCESS for women in the tech industry, and equal PARTICIPATION of women in relation to men, in the tech economy. When women contribute to shaping policy and decision-making, we create an inclusive economy for ALL South Africans to thrive, not just for women.

As women we need to be thoughtful and measured in our view of ICT. We need to view ICT as tools through which gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls can be advanced, allowing us all to participate in the technology economy together.

The UN, when adopting the Sustainable Development Goals, distinctively identified targets to guarantee Women Empowerment. SDG 5 aims at achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls. In responding to the UN SDG target, as the Government of South Africa, we are intentional and very vocal about women in leadership in this male-dominated sector.

Through BBBEE legislation, we are holding the sector accountable in ensuring that there is equitable representation of women in all decision-making levels. We want to ensure that transformation of the industry benefits and empowers women, through monitoring and measurement of ownership and shareholding of companies by gender as much as race.

We recently published the policy directive, for spectrum allocation, and I call on women to act and take up ownership and hold equity in the Wireless Open Access Network. Women of South Africa, there are opportunities in tech if we choose to see it like that.

Women make up 50% of the employed market globally, yet, only 29% of those working on Artificial Intelligence are women. That statistic is even less for women in Technology globally at just 20%, and even worse is that only 18% undergraduate degrees in computer science are women.

These are dismal figures, but they also represent hope and opportunity, if we take the phrase “Lift as we rise”, seriously, because if those that form part of those current small percentages make a commitment to ‘lift’ another, we can double those figures in a short space of time, and build from there.

We need to amplify efforts to improve digital skills and understanding of technology, for individuals, SMME’s, adults and children, etc. As a country, we need to make a commitment from both government and the private sector about reskilling and upskilling, to make the most of digital economy opportunities. We need to have more women in the spheres of 4IR.

I am proud to endorse this organisation that aims to bridge the gap in relation to technical infrastructure, language barriers and content in the Information Communication Technology space, promote gender inclusivity and empower women and the youth with digital skills which is aligned with Microsoft’s core values “Empowering every person and organisation to achieve more”.

In speaking of ‘lifting as we rise’, it’s about having a collective responsibility to mainstream gender equality across government, the public and private sectors and academia, for the purpose of promoting innovation and disruption in the technology sector, for the purpose of fostering the empowerment of women and girls. Within my various roles, I personally commit, to ensure that we achieve gender parity in this sector. In turn, I ask you what your commitment is.

To conclude, I want to leave you with these 3 critical things :

  • We can no longer be observers and merely talk about the emancipation of women.
  • We can no longer talk about gender parity, but not activate it to women empowerment.
  • Nothing about us, without us!

I thank you.

Speech date:: 
Wednesday, October 2, 2019