Insights for fostering gender equality in the digital world

26 July 2022

On 30 May 2022, UNESCO organized a high-level session at the World Summit on the Information Society Forum (WSIS) on Mainstreaming Gender Equality on Digital Transformation through Capacity Building.

The session discussed the impacts of the increasing use of advanced technology on gender equality and access to information (WSIS Action Line 3). It builds on the findings of UNESCO reports on The Effects of AI on the Working Lives of Women and Multistakeholder AI Development: 10 building blocks for inclusive policy design.

In her Opening Keynote, Onica N. Makwakwa, Head of Africa, Alliance for Affordable Internet highlighted the financial implications, if women do not take part in the digital economy.

"525 billion dollars are at loss if we do not bridge the gender digital divide. It is possible to achieve gender equality, but we all need to be committed to it."
Onica N. Makwakwa
Head of Africa, Alliance for Affordable Internet, World Wide Web Foundation

She further laid out how language and capacity challenges, financial constraints, and the lack of access to digital technologies withhold many women and girls from participating in the digital world.

The discussion on Digital economy: What skills do women need and how can women be supported to acquire these?, covered by Dorothy Gordon, Gina Neff and Onica N. Makwakwa, underlined the changing skills requirements in the digital economy, and the challenges and opportunities for women to enter the digital economy. The panelists highlighted the challenging and conditions needed for women to be able to acquire the skills desired for tomorrows workforce in the digital economy.

"The contexts within which women experience AI differ widely; there are more AI jobs in some places than others, but women everywhere are experiencing changes in the way they do their jobs, interact with their governments and live their lives due to AI. Better AI literacy, and skills for all women are essential."
Dorothy Gordon
Chair of UNESCOs Information for all Programme

Ms Gordon emphasized that technology is present in our everyday lives and society therefore needs to revamp and redesign the technology for the benefit of all, while referring to World Wide Web Foundations REACT approach and UNESCOs ROAM-X indicators as useful frameworks.

The participants also noted the need to adapt school curricula to skill children with the digital competencies relevant in the future as a sustainable channel for strengthening capacities of girls and women to participate in the digital economy.

On the policy making front, Gina Neff, Executive Director of the Minderoo Centre for Technology and Democracy at Cambridge University highlighted the unavailability of gender disaggregated data as an impediment to developing gender sensitive and transformative policies.

Original article

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