Driving Digital Transformation for Women and Girls through Mobile: Unlocking the Potential of Small States

The 2019 Sustainable Development Goals Report from the United Nations Secretary General points to the fact none of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) can be achieved unless SDG5 (Gender Equality) is achieved first. A significant part of achieving gender parity is driven by addressing the inequalities perpetuated in the digital world: from unequal access to digital technology resources to unequal participation in digital technology development. The mobile industry can play a pivotal role in delivering an action plan which reflects a renewed commitment towards the full realisation of digital gender equality for all.

This is exactly what the GSMA, in partnership with the Commonwealth Businesswomen’s Network, the ITU, EQUALS, UNCDF and the ITC set out to discuss in a webinar celebrating International Girls in ICT Day. The webinar explored how digital technologies have become a powerful force for social and economic development, delivering substantial benefits for women and their communities. Mobile especially is playing a crucial role in delivering digital connectivity and in particular, access to the internet in small developing countries. Experts taking part in the webinar highlighted how the survival of many small countries in the Commonwealth depends on finding innovative and effective solutions to challenges threatening their very existence.

In particular, they identified the following five solutions for small commonwealth states to deliver better economic resilience and sustainability through digital inclusion for women and girls. These are:

1. Public and private stakeholders should ensure that considerations of women and gender equality are integrated into strategies and plans. This includes setting specific gender-equity targets for reaching women and tracking their progress.

2. More research and support needs to be provided for women-led ‘Born Global’ firms (firms that, from inception, seek to derive significant competitive advantage from the use of resources and the sale of outputs in multiple countries) including via diaspora links. There is also a need for more data on women’s leadership in the tech sector in particular more gender disaggregated data to build the evidence base.

3. Donors and governments should target Aid for Trade for women in ICT in small states by supporting innovative programs to develop an enabling ecosystem for women entrepreneurs in ICT.

4. Governments should strengthen interdepartmental coordination between ministries of technology and innovation, trade, education and women’s affairs. Bridging the gender digital divide should be on the agenda of all ministries as they work together towards its achievement. Governments should also focus on increasing women and girls’ digital literacy and confidence by investing in education and digital skills initiatives. An example of this is mainstreaming digital (including mobile-based) skills into school curriculums.

5. The private sector should work to better understand women’s needs, such as barriers to mobile ownership and digital finance services, to enable them to design targeted interventions to address these barriers.

These five recommendations support a common agreement that we need structural and institutional support and a nurturing ecosystem to encourage girls and women to enter ICT fields and to drive inclusive digital transformation. Without women and girls integrated into digital technologies, we won’t be able to achieve the SDGs. Therefore, in the year of the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, we should not only work to ensure women and girls are not left behind but also work towards enabling women to be agents of change and builders of the digital economy.

To find out more about what the GSMA did to support this year’s Girls in ICT Day visit our Tech4Girls website.

To find out more about what the mobile industry is doing to bridge the gender gap visit the GSMA’s Better Future website.