Rethinking How to Bridge the Gender Digital Divide
In an expanding digital world, bridging the gender digital divide is crucial in ensuring that women and girls are not left behind. Regional bodies such as the African Union and the European Union have worked collaboratively with specialized institutions to find long lasting solutions to the digital divide. With access to digital technology now mainstreamed and demonstrated as not being a luxury, policymakers have been actively seeking sustainable solutions. During the 6th AU-EU Summit held in February 2022, both institutions agreed on common vision for a renewed partnership, with various commitments; specifically, the EU committed to investing 150 billion euros over seven years for the financing of large-scale sustainable projects based on Africa’s priority areas. One of the key areas agreed upon is the “D4D Hub” which will significantly bridge the gender digital divide and eventually contribute to attaining the SDGs.
Closing the gender digital divide is part of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 5 on gender equality, and contributes to all other spheres of life, such as economic empowerment, education, and inclusive political participation.
Despite the constant efforts and commitments of the past decades, women and girls, especially those in under-served and marginalised communities, continue to face greater barriers to accessing and using digital technologies. Data illustrates the persistence of the gender divide in access to information and communication technologies. Around 3.7 billion people do not have access to the internet and half of those are women, as reported by UN Women. According to the International Telecommunication Union, 2.9 billion people globally remain offline, around 37 percent of the world’s population, with women remaining more digitally marginalised in comparison to men. In Africa specifically, the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) reports that women account for only 24% of the population using the internet. Achieving gender equality will remain a challenge until the gender digital divide within and between countries is closed.
In this new digital age, technology should be leveraged to advance gender equality strides, economically empower and positively influence women’s and girls’ agenda, globally. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought a new wave of rapidly evolving digital landscape, with new technologies flooding the digital space. This has opened doors and created more spaces for women and girls who are increasingly sought after for various opportunities. Ground-breaking initiatives such as the Action Coalition on Technology and Innovation for Gender Equality, the African Girls Can Code Initiative, the AU Science, Technology, and Innovation Strategy for Africa 2024 the 2030 Global Compass, the EU Pact for Skills Partnership for the digital ecosystem have been progressively improving and changing the narrative. There are various actions being implemented also in EU’s partner countries to strengthen digital skills, digital entrepreneurship and the participation of women and girls in STEM.
This side event aims to raise awareness among attendees of the United Nations 67th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) and all stakeholders about the gender digital divide and the role of digital skills in addressing it. The event will also provide a platform for inter-generational dialogue, and an opportunity for experience sharing and generating recommendations for future action. It also aims to draw the attention of policy makers on the potential of digital skills and means in addressing the divide.
Specifically, the objective of the meeting is to:
- Highlight the negative impact of the persistent gender digital divide on countries’ potential (notably in terms of economic growth and development).
- Identify the multidimensional benefits of gender digital inclusion.
- Map out best practices and lessons learned from the existing global, regional and local initiatives on bridging the gender digital divide and promoting digital literacy, including effective gender responsive policies in this space.
- Promote intergenerational dialogue to better understand the challenges faced by women and girls concerning to bridge the gender digital divide and reshape tomorrow’s policies.
- Examine the abuse of digital technology such as cyber-criminality and online harassment of women and girls, and provide a safer online space.
Areas for Discussion:
Bridging the gender digital divide requires frank discussion on its causes and consequences. This includes understanding differences in access to safe online spaces and new technologies, as well as education and training in basic and advanced digital skills. Action is needed to develop gender responsive policies in this regard, including initiatives that address affordability barriers for both devices and connectivity, and strategies that will expand access to mobile phones and data.
Within this space, policies must also realistically respond to the needs of women and girls in vulnerable or marginalized situations, particularly those who may already have limited access to services such as education, health and finance. Furthermore, we must seek to understand through intergenerational dialogue how the gender digital divide impacts women and girls across different generations.
While the gender digital divide presents a number of challenges, successfully harnessing digital literacy and related ICT skills has the potential to promote women and girls’ economic empowerment. This includes through entrepreneurship and access to online markets, as well as for tackling gender digital divide in the ICT sector and other jobs using advanced digital skills.
- What are some best practices and lessons learned from the existing global, regional, and local initiatives on bridging the gender digital divide and promoting digital literacy? What are examples of effective gender responsive policies in this space?
- How can policy makers ensure quality and accessible education opportunities that promote online learning and digital literacy programmes for women and girls? How can we tailor policies to take into account women and girls in the most vulnerable situations?
- How can we promote intergenerational dialogue to better understand the challenges facing women and girls of all ages concerning the gender digital divide? How can we engage young people to reshape tomorrow’s policies to bridge the gender digital divide?
Date and Venue:
The event will be held on the 8th of March from 3.00 to 4.15 pm at the United Nations Headquarters Conference Room 1, in the margins of the 67th Session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women.
- Increased political support and commitment for gender digital inclusion and the strengthening of digital skills.
- Increased quality and accessible education opportunities that promote online learning and digital literacy programmes for women and girls with tailored policies and increased investment.
- Member states to consider implementing policies that address affordability barriers for both devices and connectivity, and strategies that will expand access to mobile phones and data.
WATCH LIVE: https://media.un.org/en/asset/k19/k190tyvhjf
RSVP requested for in-person attendance or watch via UNTV: https://media.un.org/en/asset/k19/k190tyvhjf