Wednesday 14 November, 2018

Girls 'hack' for a better Barbados

Girls and young women in Barbados joined others across the Caribbean in a hackathon.

Girls and young women in Barbados joined others across the Caribbean in a hackathon.

As the discussion grows about the negative use of technology, the University of the West Indies (UWI) Cave Hill Campus was the place to see young women using these tools for good.

This as Barbados joined the rest of the world in commemorating international Girls in Information Communication Technology (ICT) Day.

This year's celebration took the form of a Caribbean Hackathon, in which young women at UWI's campuses in Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago joined with those in Barbados to develop technological solutions for problems within the society. The girls competed in groups to develop the apps which would help with various social ills and show that women have an essential role to play in Information Communication Technology.

Before that competition began however, they were encouraged by a variety of women in the field, as well as influential females such as Senator Irene Sandiford-Garner, who told them to bravely follow their passions and know that their sex does not determine their future.  

Girls in ICT Day 2017

She lamented the lack of data on gender technological use in Barbados, stressing that this made it difficult to create informed policy on the matter - something she is determined to have addressed:

"We must address the need for in-depth research, regarding the participation of women and girls in Information Communication Technology, if we are to have a sustainable and far-reaching outcome from activities like these. 

"The paucity of data makes it difficult if not impossible to make the case to government for the inclusion fo gender issues in ICT policies, plans and strategies."

A similar sentiment was shared by Susan Boyea, Vice President and Business Relationship Management for the local Gold Sponsor of the event Sagicor:

She told the participants that "there is nothing which predisposes boys to ICT, in the same way that nothing predisposes girls to cooking.

"ICT is an equal opportunity discipline and so Sagicor is proud to provide support for the Caribbean Hackathon and for the notion that anything boys can do, girls can do too!"

Director of Business Support with regional Platinum Sponsor Scotiabank, Kim Stanton, noted that the event corresponded with the bank's focus on building through the expertise of a diverse group of persons:

"Gender equality is one of the major reasons that Scotiabank is sponsoring this event in Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, and Jamaica. We believe in opportunity for everyone. 

"Scotiabank works hard to ensure diversity and inclusion in our workplace - I can attest to that...  Diversity across gender, racial and cultural lines makes us a strong organisation." 

Noting that Scotiabank supports "youth in education and development wherever our bank operates," she added that they will be partnering in a coding Camp in Barbados this September, as part of their ongoing commitment to technology in the island:

"Our participation in the Hackathon event today is not an isolated event, but rather the beginning of our investment in the future education in technology."

When all the speeches were completed and after a workshop on the topic, it was time for the hackathon, where the girls would compete in groups to develop technological solutions to problems in Barbados.

Gold sponsor of the event Loop News, spoke with one group of four girls ranging from age 13-16.

The students from Queen's College, the Springer Memorial Secondary School and the Deighton Griffith Secondary School, were tasked with creating an app which helps to battle cyberbullying and said that while there were some challenges, they felt empowered by not just creating the app, but by being able to solve real problems in the island.