African Public and Civil Society Leaders Zoom in on Gender Data for DigitALL Equality
More than 100 leaders in government, the private sector and civil society across Africa convened to rally for better gender data to quantify and bridge the digital divide. Held under the theme Bridging the Gender Divide for DigitALL Equality in Africa, the virtual forum was organized for International Women’s Day 2023 and in keeping with the theme of the ongoing Commission on the Status of Women (CSW67) on innovation, technological change, and education in the digital age.
Digital innovation is rapidly changing how people live and work, but inequity in access persists.
“Women in Africa are half as likely to use the internet as women in the rest of the world and about 25 percent less likely to own mobile phones,” said Nathan Menton, Statistician in the ICT Data and Analytics Division at the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).
“A survey for Europe estimated that 90 percent of jobs will soon require skills in ICT. Yet, while the difference between women’s and men’s access to and use of ICT is shrinking in some parts of the world, in Africa, available data shows that the gender digital divide is growing,” said Albert Motivans, Head of Data and Insights for Equal Measures 2030.
While digital technology has the potential to raise incomes and improve the quality of life for countless people, so far, it has mainly benefited those who can afford and access these tools. Many women and girls in Africa for whom the digital revolution is out of reach are therefore at serious risk of being left behind, potentially deepening existing socio-economic and gender inequalities.
Governments have a clear imperative to bridge the gendered digital divide and lower barriers to access.
“The link between technology and women’s rights is clearly reflected in the Sustainable Development Goals. Goal 5 on gender equality and women’s empowerment includes a specific target on utilizing technology and ICTs to empower women and girls,” said Zebib Kavuma, Deputy Regional Director for UN Women East and Southern Africa.
The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that access to technology is no longer a luxury but a necessity. Yet digital adoption is lower for girls, and they often do not benefit from this technology in the same way as boys.
Innovative programmes such as African Girls Can Code Initiative (AGCCI), implemented by UN Women, the African Union Commission, and the ITU are empowering girls through digital and computer literacy and placing them on the path to tech careers.
“The Africa we want is a non-sexist Africa where both girls and boys can reach their full potential and women and men can contribute equally to the development of their societies. This is an integral part of the African Union’s vision for full gender equality in all spheres of life,” said Leila Ben Ali, Head of Statistics at the African Union Commission.
“Since ICTs advance gender equality and empower women in many ways, the push to encourage more African women and girls to pursue studies and careers in STEM is imperative for their social and economic empowerment, and indeed for the region,” said Christine Sund, Senior Advisor for the International Telecommunication Union’s Regional Office for Africa.
The Africa forum showcased new statistical methods being developed and tested in Africa and how gender data has transformed the use of ICT, underscoring the global International Women’s Day 2023 call to remove all barriers to digital access, eliminate online gender-based violence (GBV), and enable women’s and girls’ participation in STEM.
“Official sex-disaggregated data on ICT access, skills, and leadership is essential to capture and analyze societal differences,” said Marc Koffi Kouakou, Principal Gender Statistician-Economist and Africa Gender Index (AGI) Task Manager for the African Development Bank Group.
“Beyond accurately quantifying the digital gender gap, gender data is crucial for countries to develop appropriate ICT policies and plans, allocate the necessary resources—including for training, and effectively track and scale up the impact of these interventions,” said Papa Seck, Chief of Research and Data for UN Women.
For more information, please contact:
Aijamal Duishebaeva, Communications Specialist, East and Southern Africa
Hawa Diop, Communications Specialist, West and Central Africa
International Telecommunications Union (ITU)
Mariam Arghamanyan, Digital Communications
Esme Abbott, Communications (Africa)
Suzanne Ngouandi, Communications (Africa)
African Development Bank
Alphonso Van Marsh, Principal Digital Content
and Events Officer