Virtual leap makes Tongan Women in ICT busier than ever

From our humble beginnings gathered around a table in a café three years ago, the Tonga Women in ICT (TWICT) group, also known as CocoNECT, has grown to over 40 members, some joining us from abroad.

With such a large and dispersed group, we have been looking at ways to develop more virtual participation; a task that has been accelerated in the past eight months due to COVID-19, not just for our group but the island of Tonga.

It’s been great to see so many new virtual capacity development and participatory initiatives replacing many of our traditional face-to-face gatherings and workshops compared to the past. More so, has been the community’s willingness to take up these opportunities and incorporate things like Zoom and VPNs into their working lives.

As for TWICT, we’ve been as busy as we’ve ever been. Below is a snapshot of what we’ve been up to the past six months:

April — We joined the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) in celebrating ‘Girls in ICT Day’. The event was supposed to be celebrated in our neighbouring island Samoa this year, but due to COVID-19, everyone participated virtually through online dialogue. TWICT created a short video titled ‘Tongan Women in ICT’.

May — More than 25 members of TWICT participated in Coding Online training thanks to sponsorship from the International Centre for Democratic Partnership, Australia (ICDP).

June — We virtually celebrated our third anniversary.

July — Our monthly catch-ups have now become Zoom sessions with TWICT members joining in from Australia, China, New Zealand and the USA, along with various places in Tonga.

August — TWICT’s Chairlady and fellow TWICT members joined and co-supported Tonga CERT in the launch of the newest safety website in Tonga – ‘Get Safe Online‘.https://twitter.com/ukinfiji/status/1299138908316479494

September — We launched a weekly virtual training program consisting of local and international engineering trainers, including trainer from APNIC. Training topics range from building websites, network and information security, network monitoring, SDN, and building email servers/virtual machines.

September — TWICT members also participated in the Pacific Internet Society’s (PICISOC’s) first Pacific Women in ICT (PICwICT) virtual meetup. The highlight was seeing videos of women giving their updates while carrying their kids and babies screaming in the background; a lot of proud Pacific mums combining their family and tech interests.

As for the rest of the year, we plan on continuing to hold our virtual training and meetups. We’re also gearing up to be a Get Safe Online Ambassador, organizing a mentoring training session and several awareness programs.

Even though it’s been a tough year, it’s been amazing to see TWICT go from strength to strength and we’re looking forward to what 2021 brings us.

Seluvaia Kauvaka is founder CocoNECT now rebranded “Tonga Women in ICT” (TWiICT) and Senior System Analyst at Tonga’s Ministry of Meteorology, Energy, Information, Disaster Management, Environment, Climate Change and Communications (MEIDECC).

This article first appeared on APNIC Blog

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