Women as Catalysts for Citizen Development, Corporate Prosperity

The embracing of citizen developers by the IT industry could herald significant changes to the development of Nigeria’s digital future. But will this future involve more women? Joanna Baidu, Sub Saharan Africa Youth Lead at PMI, says citizen development could well be the opportunity to attract more women to use their experience and build applications through cloud-based, low-code, no code platforms.

One of the reasons the International Girls in ICT Day was conceived was to draw attention to the critical need for more inclusivity in the tech sector. The gender disparity in the ICT workforce is glaring all over the world. Hence, this year the focus is on creating safe and reliable access to the internet and digital tools for women.

Inclusion in the tech sector has been a long-standing conversation, generating varied opinions and perspectives. It will take employers’ eagerness to develop both grassroots and in-house technical skills of women and men to fill the existing gaps in the sector.

Male dominance in the Nigerian tech sector is evident from the underrepresentation of women in the top ranks. Of the 93 tech firms surveyed by the ONE Campaign and the Center for Global Development, only six had a woman in a top management position. Worse still, more than one-third of the surveyed tech firms employed no women.

Furthermore, a youth survey by the National Bureau of Statistics, reports that young men are almost twice as likely to have a career in computer science and technology-related fields as women in Nigeria.

According to the National Bureau of Statistics, in Nigeria, women make up on average just 22% of the total number of Engineering and Technology university graduates each year. According to the same source, women make up roughly a fifth of people working in the information and communication technology sector.

Project Management Institute (PMI) believes that structured citizen development programs that open the IT development field to everyone, including women, will help companies drive inclusivity. The introduction of citizen development can help bridge the talent gap and accelerate digital transformation in Nigeria because everyone can contribute to tech solutions without necessarily learning to code.

On the back of connected devices, the citizen development movement has spurred innovation in software development. The low code, no code tech that anyone can use has companies turning to it for fast app development and deployment. Moreover, the arrival of citizen developers has alleviated the pressure on IT departments, people with more formal IT qualifications leaving to focus on mission-critical and core programming.

Encouraging employee participation in technology development must not come at the cost of security lapses, data breaches, and governance risks. Citizen development efforts must comply with security standards and be guided by a governance that sets requirements for secure applications to be created outside the IT function.

“On the positive side, more technically aware and enabled people in the workplace will undoubtedly contribute to reinforced awareness and safer operational procedures. This means that organizations can capitalise on employee knowledge about the company needs to produce enhanced outputs,” says Baidu.

The potential for well-governed, corporate-driven citizen development is unlimited. Helping women develop new skills and reducing traditional gender gaps through structured citizen development programs can advance a company’s market performance and profitability.

“Technology is an important part of our daily lives. Movements like citizen development must be supported and fostered across organizations and educational institutions, so women and girls get an early start. The prospect of artificial intelligence having the same gender biases as humans can turn into a reality if we don’t encourage more inclusivity in ICT,” concludes Baidu.
Joanna Baidu is Youth Lead, PMI

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