Last week was significant for the ICT world as several important events were held from 26 to 28 of April in Vilnius, Lithuania. One of them was the International Girls in ICT Day celebration on 27 April.
The important topic of Girls in ICT was brought up during the Regional Development Forum for Europe (RDF) which took place on 26 April. Dr Danguole Rutkauskiene, Head of Young Computer User’s School at Kaunas University of Technology and Head of Working Party at National Digital Coalition, Lithuania, presented a session on ICTs for Empowering Women, and shared her vast experience in this field. She shared information about specialization of the ICT sector with a large number of different career opportunities. In her speech, Dr. Danguole Rutkauskiene emphasized that only around 29 of 1000 women in Europe have an ICT related degree and they also tend to leave their ICT related careers more often than men. Some of the reasons of this current negative trend are social stereotypes, low self-confidence and a negative image of the sector. Efforts are being made to improve this situation, through the work of the European Centre for Women and Technology, which focuses on making efforts to attract girls to study ICT and other related science degrees. Dr Danguole Rutkauskiene concluded her speech by sharing several success stories of Lithuanian women, and giving recommendations including how to motivate girls from a very young age, to review the national education systems and share ICT and girls related good practices at the national and regional level. The speech attracted a lot of attention and was very appreciated by the international guests who found the topic relevant and important.
International Girls in ICT Day 2017 was celebrated on 27 April with events around the world aimed at encouraging girls and young women to consider studies and careers in the growing field of ICTs, while at the same time highlighting the growing importance of digital skills to pursue successful professional careers across sectors.
As the day was coinciding with the Regional Preparatory Meeting (RPM) held in Vilnius, Lithuania, ITU joined hands with Kaunas University of Technology to celebrate Girls in ICT in Vilnius as a side event taking place in parallel to the RPM, at the same venue.
28 girls between the age of 12 and 16 joined the event. To ensure regional balance, girls were invited from different towns across Lithuania: Vilnius, Kaunas, Alytus, Klaipeda and Panevezys.
The ICT Day event started with welcome remarks that were given by dr Danguole Rutkauskiene, who highlighted the important role ICTs play in today’s societies and the vast amount of career opportunities the sector offers. Also, two role models were presented: Vanessa Gray from ITU and ms. Loreta Krizinauskiene, Lithuanian National digital coalition coordinator and Managing director of „Langas į ateitį“.
Ms Vanessa Gray introduced the participants to ITU including its different sectors and shared about the work of her department. This gave the girls an insight into the crucial role ICTs play in development and emergency situations. Ms Loreta Krizinauskiene presented successful women in the technology industry giving the girls inspiration and demonstrating that ICT is not only men’s field.
Later, mr Domas Sabockis from the company “Exit to Virtual Reality” gave a presentation, which included an introduction to Virtual Reality and to the ways it is shaping our world. The most exciting part was when the participants could test and experience virtual and augmented reality with the equipment of high end VR system called HTC Vive.
A video-conference was set up for an interactive session connecting the girls participating in Girls in ICT events in Vilnius, at ITU HQ in Geneva, Switzerland, and at a telecommunication operator company Alfa in Beirut, Lebanon. This offered the participants a chance to explore ICT together in an interactive format in real-time. The video-conference was followed by a presentation of the winning projects from Lithuania’s biggest annual robotics and technology competition, Robotiada. The session was live-streamed and a special invitation to follow the session was sent to schools across the country in Klaipeda, Panevezys, Marijampole, Alytus, Kaunas and Vilnius.
During the video-conference,three groups presented their projects demonstrating the different ways robots can be used for fun and practical purposes. Emilija, the youngest participant started by presenting her robot called “The Candy Machine”, which she had created with a fellow student in Vilnius Smart Tech Academy. Barbora and Marija, from the same academy, presented their project “Hand of the robot”, which was created using Arduino and Raspberry Pi technologies. This robot could be controlled virtually online enabling people from all over the world to control it. The last group were Vasare and Skaiste from Panevezys’ Robotics academy and presented their project named “Tabletatorius 3000”. This robot was designed to assist elderly people to remember to take their medicines on time.
After the presentations of winning projects of Robotiada, the girls had the opportunity to learn robotics themselves first-hand. Firstly, they were introduced to the definitions and challenges related with robotics and the different forms they take in our everyday lives. This was followed by a technical introduction to programming of Lego Mindstrom robots, after which the girls could start programming their robots in teams of five. There was also a mini competition where the groups could present the results of their work.
The day ended with a closing ceremony. In her closing remarks, dr Danguole Rutkauskiene encouraged the girls to continue engaging with ICTs and informed them about the different possibilities and activities for this purpose. Each girl received a certificate of participation and the winning team of the quiz received a prize from both Kaunas University of Technology and ITU. Additionally, the youngest participant was awarded by National Digital Coalition. The girls were very happy having a chance to have their hands on technologies and meeting girls from other Lithuanians regions that are interested in technologies. That day created many unforgettable moments for all of the participants.