The Covid-19 pandemic has served as another reminder that the digital gender divide is an ongoing challenge that we are yet to successfully overcome.
During this Covid-19 pandemic, one of the differences between access to things such as information, employment and education was whether one had sufficient digital access or not and across the globe, women and girls were more negatively affected than the opposite gender.
This pandemic will undoubtedly have an impact on the digital access gender gap.
According to the World Bank, the gap in digital access in Sub-Saharan Africa stands at 37%, the second worst in the world behind South Asia.
Closing this gap is critical to achieving the fifth goal of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set by the UNDP is Gender Equality: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.
The world had to become instantly more digitised in 2020, but some countries and communities were far more equipped to do so than others. Addressing the real needs of women and girls should be part of day-to-day policymaking.
The gender gap in digital technology has narrowed in recent years, but the pandemic has showed us that it is not narrowing fast enough and women continue to be disadvantaged by the lack of progress.
In many ways, COVID-19 further entrenched existing gaps, especially in the workplace. According to the Global Gender Gap Report 2021, women face significantly more challenges in the workplace than men, especially those who have children.
It is essential that we ramp up the attempt to bridge the gap by not only attracting more women into the ICT industry but by also ensuring they have the necessary skills to thrive, by building an environment conducive to women in the industry and by finding more ways to increase the access to digital technology.
To empower women, eliminate the economic and social disparities between women and men, and promote social integration, we must not only introduce supportive recruitment policies, but also offer more opportunities and support through education, to make women fundamentally more competitive in the current digital economy.
Initiatives for the future
At Huawei, we are committed to helping address the current skills gap. An important example of this is Huawei’s Seeds for the Future programme. Since its launch in 2008, the programme has benefitted more than 30 000 students, at more than 500 universities across more than 126 countries.
In South Africa, we have a 50/50 gender split in candidates that are chosen for the programme. In addition, the Huawei ICT Academy trains more than 45 000 students globally every year, with a growing number of them being women. This applies to South Africa too.
On 8 March 2021, Huawei officially launched the HUAWEI Women Developers programme, which aims to empower women developers and provide them with a platform to create innovative apps that can change the world.
This program intends to ensure that women have access to the education and training that they need to become fundamentally more competitive in the digital economy. Equipping women with these skills has proven to promote social integration, as well as inclusive and diversified societies.
This year, a new Tech Women’s Award will be presented at the Huawei HMS App Innovation Contest 2021. This award represents a special incentive for women developers, hoping to encourage their innovation and entrepreneurship.
In addition, participants from this program who develop outstanding apps with big potential will have the opportunity to be featured in future campaigns and officially invited to other Huawei events.
This August, which is Women’s Month in South Africa, we’re launching a Digital Skills for Women Entrepreneurs Programme. This is cloud computing, digital marketing and APP development training for women entrepreneurs.
Digital technology can, and should, be a tool for closing the gender divide in general. But in order for that to happen, it’s vital to close the digital gender divide.
It is also not enough to just encourage participation by women and girls but we also need to continue to eliminate the socio-economic barriers that exist for women as these also contribute by hindering capable females from initiating and continuing the pursuit of a career in ICT.
By Christina Naidoo, COO, Huawei South Africa