A call for gender parity in the digital space
(ECA) – Economic Affairs Officer at the Economic Commission for Africa, Mactar Seck, highlights the need to promote the representation of women in information and communication technology (ICT), at the Internet Governance Forum’s (IGF) Women’s Summit.
In his remarks during the session, Mactar Seck notes, “only 12% of women currently operate in the ICT sector. There is a substantial digital gap on the continent, with women representing 51% of the population, yet only 20% having access to the Internet. Several studies have shown that if we can solve gender inequality, we can contribute $3 million to the global GDP.”
Mr. Seck identified two key programs established by the ECA to build women’s capacity and skills to participate in the digital space, namely the African Connected Girls initiative launched in 2020, which has trained around 25,000 girls in Artificial Intelligence, coding, gaming and other uses of digital technology. And the Tech Africa Women Initiative, launched this year, focuses on building capacity for women’s start-ups.
Zanyiwe Asare, a Member of the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa Consumer Advisory Panel, explained the need for technological justice to work alongside technological innovation, “the more technology advances, the more traditional roles become more obsolete, meaning less physical world-based intervention and this means offences from both a civil and criminal perspective occur online.”
Ms. Asare expressed the need for critical players to be open to genuine collaboration and creating avenues for bottom-up approaches, broad-based literacy programs and awareness, and better enforcement by law enforcement officials.
Sylvia Mukasa, Founder and CEO of GlobalX Investments Ltd, a technology company with a focus on emerging technologies, explained that research has shown gender and race are crucial areas to look at in emerging technologies, “only 22% of Artificial Intelligence professionals globally are women, this poses a threat of gender bias. So, as these technologies are being adopted, we need to ensure that data is being used inclusively. We need to ensure these new technologies do not exacerbate existing inequalities.”
Discussions further revealed the importance of promoting ICT skills development in schools; improving gender parity in internet governance; regulating cyberspace to prevent cybercrimes against women and other forms of prejudice; as well as formulating the right policies that protect individuals so governments are acting proactively as opposed to reactively.
The 17th Internet Governance Forum in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia takes place from 28 November to 2 December, seeks to determine concrete steps to unlock the potential of digital technology to build resilient and inclusive societies. The IGF brings together governments, businesses, the technical community, civil society, and other partners to have open and inclusive discussions on how digital transformation can be harnessed to drive socio-economic development globally while protecting the environment. The theme for this year is “Resilient Internet for a Shared Sustainable and Common Future.”