How Access to Technology Can Empower Girls

Mar 21, 2022|5Gender Equality

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Technology is all around us: tablets, smartphones, TVs, computers, smart thermostats, smart home entertainment systems, like Alexa, the list goes on and on. Technology makes our lives easier, better, faster. But it hasn't always been this way. Likewise, access to technology is not as easily accessible or even available for many.  

According to the United Nations, nearly 3 billion people – or 37% of the world's population – have never used the Internet. And according to the UN's International Telecommunication Union (ITU), it is estimated that 96% of the 2.9 billion people who have not accessed the web live in developing countries. This represents a huge disadvantage for these communities. Why? Because without access to the Internet and technology like tablets and computers, fewer boys and girls have access to educational resources, negatively affecting their futures and the future of their communities. 

Think about it, how many times in the last week have you 'Googled' something for school? How often have you used a tablet or computer to type an essay this week? 


The Digital Divide

The digital divide is a gap between those who have access to new technology and those who do not. These technologies include but are not limited to smartphones, computers, and the Internet. 

However, the digital divide is more complex than simply not having the latest iPhone. On the one hand, there is a technological divide: the lack of infrastructure to allow telecommunications, such as the lack of electricity, optic fiber, and high-speed internet providers, for example. On the other hand, there is a content divide where a lot of the web-based content is not relevant to the local communities, either because it is available only in English or because it doesn't address their actual day to day needs. And lastly, there is a gender divide, with women and girls having less access to information technology than men and boys. 

Let's explore that last point a little further. 

Gender Equality and Empowerment of Women through Technology

Experts estimate that 90% of future jobs require information and communications technology (ICT) skills. Furthermore, the fastest-growing, most in-demand jobs will be in the computer, mathematical, architecture, and engineering fields. Therefore access to technology is essential to guarantee a more diverse and gender-equal workforce. 

The link between technology and women's rights is reflected in UN Sustainability Goal 5, Gender Equality, which includes a specific target on utilizing technology to drive women's and girls' empowerment. However, in reality, gender equality touches upon all UN sustainability goals. Gender equality is key to ensuring that no one is left behind, and therefore, it is essential for all of us to work together to ensure women and girls around the world are treated equally. 

But, How does Tech have an Impact on Gender Equality? 

Let's consider technology as a resource. As any resource, we must have rules to guarantee the responsible consumption of technology, both from an ethical and an environmental point of view. 

While there isn't a magic potion for achieving gender equality, digital technology presents an opportunity to help narrow gender gaps by allowing access to welfare services such as the care or protection of children and young people and access to financial services and information. It also represents a viable path to access healthcare services - doctors, nurses and counseling - to guarantee mental and physical wellbeing. 

Technology seen as a resource must be consumed responsibly, allowing access to girls and boys equally regardless of gender or socioeconomic status. Thankfully, more governments and non-profit organizations are working together to develop contingencies and strategies to help more women and girls access technology. Different grants and programs are now in place, looking to enhance women's activity in the workforce and give girls equal opportunities for education and jobs. 

For example, Tech Latinas Latin American Women for Technology creates opportunities for women and girls in Ecuador, Peru and Guatemala. They've been working in finding the best talent among the 37 million young women in these countries who were currently either unemployed or informally employed. Tech Latinas has done this by teaching coding and tech skills to women who live in middle to low-income Latin American households. 

They estimated that 1.2 million web developers in Latin America would be required by 2025, and by skilling the workforce now, they can help build stronger futures for many women. 


Women in Tech - An Emoji Story

Did you know a Colombian intern called Angela Guzman helped create apple's emojis back in 2008? Yes! Some of the very same emojis you use every day. In 2008, Angela was studying for her graphic design MFA at the Rhode Island School of Design. That year, she started an internship at Apple, where she created hundreds of emojis. Of course, it is easier now to think of an emoji and know what direction o to take, but back then, Angela didn't even know what an emoji was or was supposed to look like. Emoji is Japanese, and it means picture + word. 

Angela had a great mentor and supporter, Raymond Sepúlveda, who taught her how to make emojis in Apple's style. The first emoji Angela created was the 'engagement ring'. Angela and Raymond are responsible for creating the first batch of almost 500 emojis. Proving that women can have a big impact when given the right tools and opportunities. 


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Thinking Cap On

Can you be an inventor? Think about a problem, challenge or issue that affects women around the world. Find some suggestions below: 

  • Lack of access to safe menstrual products for women and girls in Tanzania 
  • Lack of access to books or reading resources in Latin America 
  • Lack of access to drinking water in Africa 
  • Or something local, like access to clothing and educational resources for girls in deprived areas. 

Can you think of ways to find a solution to the problem? Perhaps you can plan a campaign, a product, an idea! Become an inventor. Let's change the world one idea at a time. 

Please share your ideas with us!