Case Study By
Ms. Phumzile Mlambo-Ncguka
Former Commissioner & Executive Director of UN Women
State of Broadband 2021
The ideas and opinions expressed in this insight are those of the authors; they do not necessarily reflect those of ITU and UNESCO or the Broadband Commission. The mention of specific companies, products or services does not imply that they are endorsed or recommended by ITU or UNESCO or Broadband Commission in preference to others of a similar nature that are not mentioned.
Around the world, there are millions of women and girls who could right now be working, learning and accessing critical information from wherever they are, if only they were connected. From distance learning that links women and girls to career-boosting knowledge and skills development, to digital finance that enables them to open their own bank accounts, and Femtech that helps women monitor their health – for instance by tracking their menstrual cycles –, the potential of technology and innovation to bridge gender inequalities is vast. And with research showing that the COVID-19 crisis could this year push 47 million more women and girls into extreme poverty and keep an additional 11 million girls out of the classroom for good, the time to act is now.
This is why UN Women made technology and innovation a key focus of the Generation Equality Forum, which culminated in Paris in July with nearly USD 40 billion in confirmed investments, as well as ambitious policy and programme commitments to empower women and girls in all their diversity. This includes pledges to a dedicated Action Coalition on Technology and Innovation for Gender Equality – of which many Broadband Commission colleagues are also members – which aims to ensure that women and girls have equal access to digital tools, are protected from online gender-based violence and can become the new generation of innovators.
The commitments we saw from governments, philanthropies, civil society, youth organizations and the private sector were diverse and inspiring. For instance, the Government of Finland committed EUR 150 million to bridge the gender digital divide over the next five years; the Government of Bangladesh pledged to increase women’s participation in the ICT sector to 25 per cent by 2026 and to 50 per cent by 2041; and the Government of Rwanda committed to target smartphone ownership, access to digital financial services and STEM studies at the upper secondary level. Facebook, Google, Twitter and Tiktok announced commitments to tackle online gender-based violence and to improve women’s safety on their platforms, while the Global Fund for Women pledged to mobilize USD 5 million to fund gender justice movements and campaigns advancing feminist technology and innovation. These are the kinds of bold steps that we need to ensure a digital transformation that benefits everyone.
Such commitments are strongly aligned with those made by the Broadband Commission members to achieve gender equality in internet users, digital skills, digital financial services and to bring broadband and Internet connectivity to everyone, everywhere by 2025. UN Women invites all Broadband Commission members to join the Generation Equality Action Coalition by making a commitment and uniting towards a gender-diverse digital evolution, so that over the next five years we take steps together to ensure every woman and girl can have access to meaningful connectivity and the financial resources, equipment and digital skills needed to get online. When we work together towards our shared goals, we can create a better-connected, innovative and more inclusive digitalized world for all.