April 1st, 2018, SHARJAH (UAE): A panel of distinguished female politicians, entrepreneurs and academics took part in a discussion on the final day of the 7th International Government Communication Forum (IGCF) at Expo Centre Sharjah to discuss the role of women leaders in the digital future.
Vanessa D’Ambrosio the youngest former Head of State of San Marino, Baroness Michelle Mone, OBE, British businesswoman and advocate of women’s rights, HE Majd Schweikeh, Minister of Information and Communication Technology, Jordan and Dr Latifa Alabdulkraim, Computer Science and Information Professor at King Saud University of Saudi Arabia, summed up their experiences and aspirations for women in technology.
In addressing the subject of empowerment, HE Majd Schweikeh described social media as a world without limits. “It has effectively changed life as we know it. There are no boundaries any more, but we must always enjoy its possibilities with responsibility and respect. The empowerment it brings to women is immense. In some of the more remote areas of Jordan, the government (has) set up 190 ‘Knowledge Stations’ to provide Internet access and training. I went to visit one of them and I found women who had never even left their village – they were using social media to sell their crafts across the world. That is truly empowering,” she said.
Echoing her sentiment, Vanessa D’Ambrosio said social media is the way forward for women in both the public and private sector. “I use social media to tell people what my work is and encourage women to take a position of power in both the community and the workplace. I tell them about the social opportunities they have across Europe and help them to broaden their horizons. The beauty of social media is that it is direct, immediate, two-way and has the ultimate power to enable.”
Baroness Mone, who pointed out that despite coming from a deprived area of Scotland and leaving school at 15, she achieved enormous success through her business and now believes the power of social media means all women can now become entrepreneurs.
“If a woman wants to start a business, she can do that in less than an hour, without the need for millions of dollars’ worth of advertising. A single mother in a deprived region can still connect around the world and sell her products and services around the world which just wasn’t possible before.”
When asked by Lebanese media personality Raya Abirached, who moderated the session, what their hopes were for the future of women in technology, Vanessa D’Ambrosio said engagement and interaction were the key: “I hope women will obtain key roles in government and business to strengthen their position in society and through social media that every woman can be a role model.”
HE Majd Schweikeh answered: “The real objectives are to educate, engage and empower – we have to ask women “where do you want to be?” and take it from there. We have an open source platform to learn and work from home and our mission is to ensure that women are confident and capable and secure in a learning environment.”
Finishing the panel session, Dr Latifa Alabdulkraim replied: “We must achieve diversity and reach equality. Women have both the technical skills and the emotional intelligence to be integral in the future of Artificial Intelligence.”
Since its launch in 2012, the IGCF has been successful in fostering government communication in the UAE and greater Arab world, and developing communication channels between governments and the public. To achieve its goals, the Forum has hosted leading experts and influential speakers to share their expertise and insights on the best methods of upgrading government communication and increasing its efficiency in dealing with the current and future challenges facing the world.