W20 Argentina 2018 calls on the G20 member states to close the digital gender divide
This week the Women 20 (W20) announced a series of recommendations to promote digital inclusion for women. The W20 is an official engagement group of the G20, advising the G20 on issues around gender equality and the economic empowerment of women, supporting the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly SDG #5 (Gender Equality). Digital inclusion for women is one of the four strategic objectives of the W20, alongside labour inclusion, financial inclusion and rural development.
Digital technologies empower women, providing them with access to information, services and life-enhancing opportunities, often for the first time. Ensuring women are digitally included brings significant benefits not only to them, but also to their communities, economies and development more generally.
On Wednesday, 30th May 2018, W20 delegates convened in the Argentinian Embassy in Paris, France to debate the recommendations for the Communiqué on Digital Inclusion. As a W20 Topic Chair on Digital Inclusion, the GSMA led the debate alongside experts from the OECD and the Web Foundation. After several rounds of discussion, the delegates drafted and agreed on the following recommendations:
1. Collect, track and analyse supply and demand data disaggregated by sex on access and usage of technologies and on the presence of women in STEM related courses, careers and in leadership positions in the digital sector.
Gender-disaggregated data is currently limited, despite such data being critical to understanding and measuring the digital gender gap and informing policy and business choices that can help bridge this gap. Having more detailed and consistent evidence concerning the digital gender gap will facilitate the development of focused policies and strategies to address women’s needs more effectively.
2. Develop holistic and cross-sectoral policies that abolish the barriers to women’s access and use of digital technologies, especially in rural areas. This should be done with a focus on accessibility, affordability, safety and security, digital skills and availability of relevant content and services, taking into account women’s diversity.
The root causes of the gender gap in access and use of digital technologies lie in a complex set of interrelated social, economic and cultural barriers. It is important to address issues of gender equality and social norms and focus on accessibility and availability of infrastructure; affordability of the internet, devices and usage; the design and usability of devices and services; digital skills; concerns related to safety and security; and awareness and availability of relevant content and services.
3. Promote initiatives that drive equal participation of women and girls in STEM studies and digital-intense work to ensure that women participate and lead in the design, development and governance of digital technologies, as well as in entrepreneurship in the digital sector.
Too few women are involved in the design, development and governance of digital technologies. Women are under-represented at senior levels in high-technology industries, including the digital sector, and there is a substantial gender gap, in both developed and developing countries, in skills, jobs and careers involving science, technology, engineering and mathematics (known as STEM subjects). These gender gaps begin in education and continue in the workplace.
4. Ensure that all analyses of the future of work, including education needs and demands for new skills, are performed with a view to gender balance, social protection and job quality.
As societies become increasingly dependent on digital technology, national economies are at risk of losing out on the positive promise of women’s full participation in digital economies. Education and capacity building initiatives are needed to empower women with the skills needed for the jobs of the future.
These recommendations will be discussed alongside the Communiqués from the other work streams in the run-up to the G20 Argentina 2018 summit in Buenos Aires (30 November – 1 December 2018). In this summit, a final joint Communiqué will be presented which will outline actions for the G20 to support women’s empowerment and equal participation in society, the economy and the digital future.
Action is required if we are to address the digital gender divide and ensure women are not being left behind. Latest estimates from the ITU suggest that women globally are 12% less likely than men to have Internet access. Our recent study shows that in low- and middle-income countries, women are 26% less likely to use mobile internet than men, the primary means to access the internet in developing regions, and that this grows to 70% in South Asia.
As part of the GSMA’s Connected Women commitment initiative, 36 operators across Africa, Asia and Latin America have made 51 commitments to reduce the gender gap in their mobile Internet and/or mobile money customer base by 2020, driving an effort to accelerate digital and financial inclusion for women. To date, the Connected Women programme and its mobile operator partners have delivered life-enhancing services to more than 22 million women.
Cooperation between stakeholders will be crucial in enabling the development and delivery of policies and actions that are targeted effectively towards women’s needs. Along with the ITU, UN Women, ITC and UNU, the GSMA is also a founding partner of EQUALS, the global partnership that brings together organisations to work jointly to bridge the digital gender divide. By working together, we can make significant strides to ensure that women are not left behind. When women move forward, the world moves with them.
This initiative is currently funded by the UK Department for International Development (DFID), and supported by the GSMA and its members.
The Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, Sida, is a government agency working on behalf of the Swedish parliament and government, with the mission to reduce poverty in the world. Through our work and in cooperation with others, we contribute to implementing Sweden’s Policy for Global Development.
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