ISLAMABAD: The government launched on Friday a programme to impart information and communications technology (ICT) education to as many as 5,000 girls through 50 labs.
The programme, ICT for Girls, has “opened doors of IT and modern knowledge for future builders of Pakistan to become entrepreneurs and contributors to national development”, said Minister of State for Information Technology and Telecommunications Anusha Rahman while addressing a signing ceremony to launch the initiative.
“It is vital that women, who constitute 50 per cent of country’s population, should come forward, show their potential and contribute in socio-economic development,” she said.
The programme is a joint effort of Pakistan Baitul Maal (PBM), Universal Service Fund (USF) and Microsoft to help young girls from underserved areas.
The three organisations also signed a memorandum of understanding in this regard, under which USF in collaboration with Microsoft would establish 50 information technology laboratories in women empowerment centres running under PBM across the underprivileged areas for their skill development and economic empowerment.
In these centres about 4,000 to 5,000 girls would be provided IT training including web designing, networking and other skills to make them economically self-reliant.
Ms Rahman said it was resolve of the government to elevate abilities and information of Pakistani women in ICT to build their employability.
In this age of innovation and technological advancement, steps needed to be taken to ensure that benefits of ICT reach girls and women, the minister emphasised.
Women should focus on learning different IT and computer courses as Information Technology has assumed a pivotal role in every sphere of life. This will also lead to women empowerment, she continued.
Ms Rahman also mentioned other steps taken by the government, including a tele-centre project, and setting up of software technology parks and a tech city in Islamabad.
She said these initiatives have started to bear fruits as Pakistan has achieved fourth position in e-lancing, which refers to the trend where people work and earn their livelihood by taking freelancing work through websites.
Minister for Finance Ishaq Dar, who was chief guest on the occasion, said strengthening and enhancing outreach of social safety nets was being given priority as expenditures in this area have been increased from Rs34 billion to Rs102 billion during the last two years.
Despite taking hard decisions on economic fronts, no compromise was made in social welfare projects, he said.
Appreciating the initiative for girls, he said making women economically self-reliant was part of the PML-N’s election manifesto and the government was determined to fulfil its promises.
The government has also raised annual budget of Baitul Mal by 100 per cent to support deserving patients suffering from chronic diseases.
He said provision of modern IT labs would enable young girls to meet challenges of modern world besides learning new skills.
On the occasion, Universal Service Fund’s CEO Faisal Sattar highlighted the achievements of his organisation, saying that out of targeted 7,000 mauzas across the country, 4000 have been provided ICT services while optic fibre cable was also being laid to facilitate the remotest parts.
In his brief remarks, PBM Managing Director Barrister Abid Waheed Sheikh said that out of 150 Women Empowerment Centres (WEC) in Pakistan, Microsoft is setting up IT labs in 50 WECs.
“It is our duty to impart IT education to girls in order to enable them to earn their livelihood and contribute in national development,” he said.
Around 4,000 to 5,000 girls would be imparted training in ICT related areas in the first phase of the programme.
Microsoft Country Head Nadeem Malik expressed commitment of his organisation in promoting ICT and hoped the initiative would help materialise government’s vision to make Pakistan a digital country.
National Commission on Status of Women’s Chairperson Khawar Mumtaz said the ICT for Girls programme would help ensure women empowerment and make them productive citizens.
Later, heads of PBM, USF and Microsoft signed the document on behalf of their organizations.
CEOs of mobile phone and telecom companies, legislators and senior government official also attended.
Published in Dawn, November 28th, 2015