New York 21 September —Worldwide, the digital gender gap is growing wider and urgent action is needed to ensure that girls and women are empowered to access and benefit from the transformational power of information and communication technology (ICT), said participants at the third annual meeting of the EQUALS Global Partnership for Gender Equality in the Digital Age.
Held in New York on the periphery of the 73rd UN General Assembly, the meeting welcomed high-level representatives from the partnership’s five founding members – ITU, UN Women, the International Trade Centre, the GSMA, and UN University – along with delegates from the EQUALS global community of over 94 members.
EQUALS data indicates that women are 26 per cent less likely to use mobile internet than men. Getting women online is fundamental to achieving gender equality, not only in the tech sector, but across society as a whole, and will be instrumental to attaining SDG 5.
According to EQUALS research, basic technology skills have become just as crucial as basic literacy and numeracy skills. Joyce Dogniez, head of the EQUALS Steering Committee* and ISOC’s Vice President of Community Engagement and Development, says “EQUALS is working to collectively enhance the use of enabling technology, in particular information and communications technology and promoting the empowerment of women".
Consisting of four distinct but interdependent working groups — the Access, Leadership and Skills Coalitions, whose work is underscored by the EQUALS Research Group — the partnership sets out to achieve goals related to human rights and gender equality within the framework of the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals.
“Five years ago, by adopting the SDGs, the world agreed to leave no one behind,” says Dogniez. “Now, nearly 100 organizations are working together through the power of partnership to achieve gender equality in the digital age, contributing directly to SDG 5 and Target 5B.” **
According to EQUALS Steering Committee’s Vice Chair, Belinda Exelby of GSMA, “the gender digital divide will not close on its own. Concerted effort by all stakeholder groups is needed to ensure equal access and use of digital technologies and empowerment of women and girls in the digital world”.
At this year’s annual meeting the EQUALS Steering Committee heads of agencies announced the partnership’s plans for 2020.
UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka announced that the partnership will be deeply engaged in in the 25th anniversary of the 1995 Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the Fourth World Conference on Women (Beijing +25).
The partnership’s four coalitions have selected 14 projects to undertake in honour of Beijing +25, including:
The Access Coalition’s new plan to identify countries to increase women’s online access and digital inclusion.
SheTrades Invests, a Leadership Coalition project that will equip women in the tech sector to meet investors’ needs and secure investment.
Fairness AI. The Research Group will detect and combat biases like ageism and sexism in artificial intelligence.
EQUALS Digital Skills Fund 2.0: the Skills Coalition will facilitate digital skills training for 10,000 women and girls.
Digital Ambassador Program. This partnership-wide project will increase Rwandans’ digital literacy, as well as their access and use of online systems and services.
Doreen Bogdan-Martin, ITU’s Bureau of Development Director, underscored the importance of the coming year, noting that “As we look to the year ahead, we have a truly unique opportunity in the form of Bejing+25”.
The partnership is dedicated to creating concrete and measurable progress towards closing the digital gender gap. These action points are collectively referred to as the EQUALS Commitments. Exelby explains that “EQUALS partners; from government, the private sector, civil society and academia; each identify specific actions they will take each year. It is these that drive real work and deliver real results”.
EY Managing Partner Julie Tiegland introduced the partnership’s new business plan, which will allow for a more streamlined approach to achieving these commitments. The plan’s concrete targets for the partnership include:
Empowering at least 75 per cent of women and girls to access and use internet by 2030.
Ensuring that at least 20 per cent of interested women and girls have the information, skills, and support needed to create ICT-related companies and succeed as leaders of the tech sector by 2025
Equipping at least 60 per cent of women and girls worldwide with at least a minimum level of proficiency in digital skills by 2025.
“We need commitment,” said ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao. “I trust that we can arrive to the Commission on the Status of Women next year with clear and measurable commitments.”
* BMZ, GIZ, GSMA, International Telecommunication Union, International Trade Centre, Internet Society, United Nations University, UNESCO, UN Women.
** Goal 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls; Target 5B: Enhance the use of enabling technology, in particular information and communications technology, to promote the empowerment of women.
EQUALS is a growing multi-stakeholder partnership of more than 90 members from international organizations, governments, the private sector, civil society and academia committed to achieving digital gender equality. Made up of three Coalitions – Access, Skills and Leadership – and supported by the UN University-led Research Group, the EQUALS global partnership takes a multidisciplinary approach to closing the gender digital divide.
More information: http://equals.org
Doreen Akiyo Yomoah