Barcelona, Spain – Nearly 200 million fewer women than men own a mobile phone worldwide, according to the 2018 Mobile Gender Gap Report launched by GSMA at this year’s Mobile World Congress (MWC). The report highlights the severity of the digital gender divide as well as opportunities for the mobile industry.
This year, MWC’s theme was “Creating A Better Future.” The Congress has embraced the Sustainable Development Goals to stimulate industry-wide engagement. Gender equality was a key focus of the event, with a number of EQUALS’ partners joining as speakers and organizers.
This included the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), represented by Doreen Bogdan-Martin, ITU’s Chief of Strategic Planning and Membership. Ms. Bogdan-Martin shared ITU’s view on the gender digital divide, including the need to provide digital access to women, equip them with the skills, as well as promote female representation in the tech sector. Ms. Bogdan-Martin also presented at 4YFN, MWC’s programme for startup businesses, on diversity as a key to outperforming competition.
Closing the gap, Ms. Bogdan-Martin noted, would unlock immense opportunities for the mobile and technology sector. She cited research by UBS, McKinsey, Accenture, and UNCTAD on the economic benefits of more women being digitally skilled and in leadership roles.
Other EQUALS partners echoed this call to action towards bridging the digital gender divide -- including founding partners UN Women and GSMA.
UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ncuka spoke at the session “Leaving No One Behind: Ensuring Digital Inclusion for All.” She was joined in this session by Allison Gillwald from Research ICT Africa and Sonia Jorge from Alliance for Affordable Intenet.
GSMA organized several events, including the meeting of the EQUALS Access Coalition.
The private sector is also engaged in digital gender equity, as companies begin to see inclusivity as a key driver for growth.
Facebook, in collaboration with The Economist, presented their Inclusive Internet Index. Growing research as such on digital inclusion helps companies identify potential for expansion. SAP organized a panel discussion with stakeholders from UN Women’s Global Innovation Coalition for Change, which aims to build awareness of the potential of innovations developed by women that meet the needs of women and girls.
United Nations Deputy Secretary-General, Ms. Amina J. Mohammed, sent greetings to MWC’s participants in a video speech in which she also highlighted the importance of bridging the digital gender divide and EQUALS as a mechanism to do so. She also encouraged the mobile industry to deepen collaboration and bring impact to scale.
“A safe and equitable future requires partnership,” said Ms. Mohammed. “A great example of collaboration… is the participation of mobile industry leaders in EQUALS, the global partnership for gender equality in the digital age.”
The EQUALS global network partnership is committed to continually bringing together all stakeholders and creating synergies to bridge the divide.