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The Cortex Hub Celebrates Girls in ICT Day 2024: Building a More Equitable and Innovative Future for Girls in the Eastern Cape

The recent Girls in ICT Day celebration hosted at The Cortex Hub resonated with a profound sense of purpose. It transcended a mere showcase of technology, instead igniting a spark within the next generation of female leaders in the Eastern Cape. The event buzzed with an energy that mirrored the immense potential these young women hold to shape the technological landscape.

Our mission extends far beyond showcasing the latest gadgets. We acknowledge a critical challenge – girls, particularly those from under-resourced schools, often lack the confidence to pursue careers in technology. This absence of confidence acts as a significant barrier to achieving gender parity in the tech sector, a disparity with far-reaching consequences. Research by ManpowerGroup highlights the positive correlation between diverse leadership teams and increased innovation and profitability. When women are underrepresented in tech, the entire industry suffers from a lack of diverse perspectives and untapped potential.

The Cortex Hub promotes a supportive and inclusive environment specifically designed to bridge this gap. It's a space free from judgement where girls and women can ask questions,explore their tech interests, and develop their skills within a leadership-focused context. This nurturing environment empowers them to embrace the learning curve and confidently step into the world of technology.

The theme of this year's Girls in ICT Day was leadership, a theme reflected in the day's activities: The ICT sector's brightest female leaders illuminated the event.  Among them were Juanita Clark, CEO of the Digital Council Africa, Naledzani Mudau, a renowned remote sensing scientist at the South African National Space Agency, and Portia Sibeko, Training and Development Manager at Metro Fibre. These accomplished women not only shared their inspiring journeys and valuable insights, but their extensive expertise across various tech fields underscored a crucial element: leadership is a cornerstone of success. Their stories resonated with the importance of strong leadership in navigating challenges and achieving impactful results in the ever-evolving tech landscape.

The research poster presentations by the talented Fort Hare University GIS graduates sparked critical discussions about the future of technology and its potential to solve real-world challenges. Their research on utilising remote sensing technologies ignited conversations across the room on how this powerful tool can be harnessed to address environmental and social issues, particularly in the Eastern Cape. We saw the potential for remote sensing to revolutionise areas like resource management, disaster prevention, and sustainable development.

The exhibition floor buzzed with activity as our student club proudly showcased their embedded systems projects built on Arduino platforms. Wonder Dash workshop had students eager to take a turn and code their own instructions. This enthusiasm continued throughout the day, as participants actively engaged with various industry leaders. Imitha Tech Solutions, a company born out of the Cortex Hub, captivated the audience with their innovative network solutions. The gaming exhibition was another highlight, where Ilitha Gaming shed light on the

burgeoning opportunities within esports and showcased the capabilities of our in-house gaming lab, a major hit with the students. Do Impossible Solutions offered a glimpse into the future of smart homes with their IoT solutions, while Junior X Holdings provided insights into their IT offerings. Beyond the individual exhibits, the true power of the event lay in fostering connections. 

The pursuit of gender equity in technology isn't simply a social justice issue, it's a sound economic imperative. Research shows that achieving gender equity could unlock a staggering $12 trillion in the global economy over the next decade. Investing in girls' access to education and building their confidence in pursuing tech careers isn't just about fairness, it's about unlocking the full potential of our future workforce and driving innovation.

The 2024 Gender Report published by Girls in ICT Day recognises the stubborn inequalities that persist, but also paints a positive picture of progress made globally towards achieving gender parity in education over the past two decades. The Eastern Cape has a crucial role to play in this ongoing narrative of progress. As highlighted in the UN Women's paper, "Placing Gender Equality at the Heart of the Global Digital Compact," emerging digital technologies hold immense potential to improve lives and accelerate progress on the Sustainable Development Goals. 

However, these technologies can also exacerbate gender inequalities if left unchecked. The current gender digital divide is one of the greatest challenges of our time, and Girls in ICT Day serves as a crucial stepping stone to bridge this gap, with a focus on empowering future leaders in tech. By fostering a more supportive and inclusive environment for girls in technology, The Cortex Hub contributes to bridging the digital divide, empowering a new generation of female leaders, and ultimately unlocking the full potential of the tech sector – not just for the region, but for the entire world.

We extend a sincere thank you to everyone who contributed to the event's success, including the inspiring speakers, exhibitors and most importantly, the incredible girls and women who joined us. Your enthusiasm and bright minds are a testament to the future potential of technology.

The Conversation Continues

This is just the beginning of our journey! Share your thoughts with us in the comments below – what did you enjoy most about the event? Did it spark an interest in a specific area of technology?

Stay connected! Follow us on LinkedIn for upcoming events and initiatives designed to empower and support girls in ICT endeavours. Together, let's pave the way for a future filled with inspiring female tech leaders!

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