Well, this is such an exciting day for all of us here at the State Department who have been working on TechWomen, and I want to welcome you as you complete this first-ever TechWomen exchange program. I want to thank Acting Under Secretary Ann Stock and everyone in the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs for the hard work they have done to make this so successful.
I also want to thank our partners at the Institute of International Education, which provides critical support to scholars and students from this country and many others as they forge partnerships across borders, and to the Anita Borg Institute, whose mission is one that I share – to increase the role of women in the field of technology and bring the benefits of technology to more women.
And finally, though, and most importantly, let me thank all of the women of TechWomen, the mentors and the mentees who have spent the past month exchanging ideas and expertise. I know that you’ve embarked on a continuing learning experience, forged new friendships and partnerships, and I hope that you will continue to invest in those for years to come.
Now, being a woman in the field of technology is not always easy. Being a woman in any field is not always easy – (laughter) – but there are so many opportunities in technology that we just have to forge ahead, and we’re doing so around the world because we want to make sure that all the tools that technology has made available are just as open to women as they are to men. And I also believe that innovation thrives on good ideas, and women have a lot of good ideas. And we don’t want those ideas to just die. We want them to be shared and to help others and to create businesses and jobs and improve lives. And it has a greater impact when technology has access for everyone.
So wherever you live, whether it’s in Silicon Valley or in the Middle East or North Africa, we want to support you. We want to support the software that you design, the engineering projects that you manage, the courses that you teach. We want to help you develop and apply new technologies, and we want to help you spread the word about what is available for all people.
Now, we see the impact of new technologies every day. We’re working with farmers in many parts of the world who are now using mobile phones to find the best prices for their crops. We’re working with health professionals so that pregnant women and new mothers can get good advice about how to care for their newborns via text messages. We’re working with students so that they can learn English through mobile language apps. And we’re working with civil society so that you can use the internet to uncover corruption and advocate more effectively for political and economic reform.
So we’re excited about the role of technology, and we want to help facilitate your use of it. Here in the State Department, we do what we call 21st century statecraft. That’s just a fancy way of saying that we are trying to use technology to open up doors that are otherwise closed. And so for example, last week in Lithuania, Alec Ross, who is here and heading up a lot of our efforts along with his great team, convened what we call a tech camp. Now, a tech camp is an opportunity to bring together dozens of civil society activists, human rights defenders, NGO leaders from many different societies. These particularly were from former Soviet states like Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova, and others, because they’re interested in using the internet and connection technologies to forge political change, and to give people a voice who might otherwise not have one. And what we believe is that technology can be a great facilitator. It can also be used by governments and others to prevent people from being able to communicate.
So we have to stay a step ahead so that people are never deprived of their opportunity, as we saw how important that was in both Tunisia and Egypt over the last months. We’re seeing it in many other settings as well. And we want to help you really fulfill your own God-given potential, however you define that, by using technology as one of the many tools for enhancing relationships, building businesses, creating greater opportunities.
I also think it’s important that these conversations that you have begun this past month continue, and we hope that you will reach out to women and girls back home who can benefit from what you have experienced, because the world needs your contributions, and I know that each of you has such great potential.
So our work is just beginning together and we want to hear from you. I welcome you to stay in touch with us and to offer your suggestions, your recommendations, your constructive criticism, because we’re trying to create this opportunity, but then we’re going to step back and we’re going to expect each and every one of you to really carry on as you decide is best.
And in order to do more to encourage innovation and promote the spread of new technologies to give women and girls the support that they need to become leaders in this field, I’m very pleased to announce a new program that we will launch next year that will complement the TechWomen program. We’re calling it TechGirls and it will bring teenage girls – (applause) – from the Middle East and North Africa for an intensive month of educational activities here in the United States. And since it seems like technology is evolving so fast, we actually think having this opportunity for young women is as important as having it for more mature women, because I think there’s a creativity that can be generated by doing that.
We will look to you, the first class of TechWomen, to help us really make this program a success. I am so honored to join you in this effort. As Ann Stock said, I believe wholeheartedly in the universal rights of all people. One of my heroines, Eleanor Roosevelt, was one of the people back in the late 1940s who worked to write the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. At the time, that was passed unanimously at the beginning of the United Nations. And we’ve seen a lot of progress, but unfortunately, not in every place and not for everyone.
And the 21st century is in many ways the time when women and girls should be fully embraced to be given their universal human rights no matter who they are or where they live. And we have this wonderful new invention that Eleanor Roosevelt could never have imagined, known as the internet, where people can talk across thousands of miles, where they can learn from long distance learning, where they can come up with ideas and share them with people next door or people on the next continent. It has so much potential for unleashing the creativity and building the opportunity that is at the root of any successful society and that should be available to every person.
So I’m thrilled that you are the pioneers, those of you who are the first TechWomen. And those who are the mentors, I thank you for taking time out of your own very busy schedule. I know how challenging it is still today to be a woman in technology in my own country. I look at my friend Lorraine Hariton, who came out of Silicon Valley after having been so successful.
So we know that there’s work to be done here at home as well as around the world, but we think the opportunities are almost unimaginable. So we congratulate you for having the imagination to come here for a month. And I know how exciting it will be to go home and to see your families and your friends and talk about what you’ve done. And I want you to know that we will continue to work with you, we will continue to support you, and we will continue to look for ways that we can empower women and girls through technology.
Thank you all very much. (Applause.)