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Blog Posts by Vicki MacLeod

Attracting “Digital Natives” to ICT

by Vicki MacLeod, Consultant
March 4, 2013 - 04:41 PM

WISENET (Women in ICTs Shared Excellence Network) is the International Bureau’s convening platform that aims to leverage the experience, resources and connections of the international Information and Communications Technology (ICT) community to better the situation of women, their communities and their countries. As part of this work, the FCC has invited prominent women and men in technology from around the world to post blogs sharing their experiences.

It is ironic that in today’s digital economy it is becoming more and more difficult to attract and retain students in traditional ICT course studies. So, just as ICT skills are becoming a fundamental part of our economy, young people, especially young women, are shunning formal computer science studies in favor of what are perceived to be ‘sexier’ science subjects like forensics or genetics. A 2012 report by an industry group in Australia put the existing shortage of skilled ICT professionals  in that country at approximately 8,500, while the European Commission has estimated that Europe will suffer a shortage of 700,000 ICT professionals by 2015.

So what is going on? Why has ICT lost its attraction for the generation of so-called digital natives, whose lives revolve around their smartphones, Facebook pages, and tweets?

Many studies have found that the ICT curriculum itself is one of the key reasons that students are no longer interested in a formal ICT education. The argument is that the curriculum has not kept pace with the skills and knowledge of the students, who tend to view keyboard based coding exercises with the same enthusiasm as a piano student views scales and arpeggios – necessary in the long-term perhaps, but in the short-term boring and repetitive.

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Developing New ICT Role Models for Girls

September 5, 2012 - 04:51 PM

Vicki MacLeod is an international consultant in communications policy and regulatory issues.  She is a representative on the OECD’s Business and Industry Advisory Committee.

Careers in communications and technology are for everyone, including women. But we need to show girls the benefits of a STEM eduction – science, technology, engineering and math – and provide role models to guide their path.

As a child I used to look forward each Christmas to receiving the latest Girls’ Annual – a collection of stories about an intelligent, independent young heroine, who solved everyone’s problems in the course of her day. These larger than life characters (including Cherry Ames, a nurse, and Vicki Barr, a mystery-solving flight attendant) showed how women could use their brains and personal skills to lead exciting lives while making a real difference in the world.

The numbers of young people studying science and technology are declining, as are the numbers of girls in particular choosing to enter the ICT industry. This will leave a serious skills shortage as more of the pioneers of this industry reach retirement age. A lot of attention is being given to this issue by governments and industry around the world. Everyone agrees there is a problem; the question is what do we do about it?

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