On Tuesday 8 March, International Women’s Day 2016 is celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievement of women around the world. The theme this year ‘Planet 50-50 by 2030: Step It Up for Gender Equality’ – a theme that is especially relevant in the field of information and communication technologies (ICTs), as we now live in a world where over 95% of all jobs now have a digital component.
If women are not adequately trained, they have reduced access to employment, which could have further ramifications for their social, economic and political inclusion – and this is particularly important in the face of a predicted skills shortfall in the ICT sector of at least two million jobs globally by 2020.
Tremendous progress has already been made in terms of the gender digital divide, and for the first time in 2015 there are some parts of the world where the gender digital divide has been entirely bridged – notably in the Americas, and particularly Brazil and the USA.
But urgent action is needed to accelerate gender parity in other regions, and particularly in the world’s developing countries, where ITU data shows there is a gap of 15.4% between men and women online, and most importantly in the 48 UN-designated Least Developed Countries, the LDCs, where the gap is widest and most persistent, at 28.9% in 2015.
Key barriers to bridging the gender digital divide include affordability, the lack of relevant content, and cultural issues, as well as the need to achieve gender equality in other areas too.
Addressing this issue was one of the key agenda items at the December 2015 High-Level Meeting of the World Summit of the Information Society in New York, where an ‘Action Plan to Close the Digital Gender Gap’ was launched with the support of ten partners including governments and industry, to build on the progress made since the Beijing Platform of Action, WSIS, and the Sustainable Development Agenda 2030.
The Plan stressed the importance of bridging the gender digital divide for both mobile and Internet, and highlighted a five-pronged approach:
● Develop gender responsive strategies and policies;
● Ensure access to ICTs by women and girls and mitigate or respond to online threats that hinder women’s access to and use of technology;
● Build girls’ and women’s digital capacities and support the development of content, applications and services that meet women’s needs;
● Promote women in the technology sector, including into decision-making positions;
● Establish multi-stakeholder partnerships to advance women’s empowerment within the Information Society and strengthen international cooperation.
ITU is now working with partners to bring this plan to the attention of Member States to encourage all stakeholders in unifying their efforts and converting commitments into actions.
Another important activity is International Girls in ICT Day, which was initiated by ITU membership in 2010. This important day has now been celebrated in 150 countries around the world, with more than 5,300 events, helping to empower over 177,000 girls and young women.
In 2015 alone, more than 66,000 girls and young women took part in over 1,800 celebrations of International Girls in ICT Day in over 130 countries worldwide. This year it will be on 28 April, and we look forward to seeing your events on the calendar.
ITU also launched the annual Gender Equality & Mainstreaming Technology (GEM-Tech) Awards in partnership with UN Women in 2014, to celebrate personal or organizational achievements and innovative strategies to advance Gender Equality and Mainstreaming in the area of ICTs.
The GEM-Tech Awards provide a platform for advancing women’s meaningful engagement with ICTs and their role as decision-makers and producers in the technology sector, as well as showcasing best practices in using ICTs to empower women and girls. They are the only international prizes of their kind – and let me personally encourage you to enter for this year’s awards.
In the meantime, let’s all celebrate together on International Women’s Day 2016 – and let’s work together to achieve planet 50-50 by 2030!
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