Commonwealth and ITC work to bridge the digital gap for female entrepreneurs in the developing world

On International Women’s Day, the Commonwealth Secretariat and the International Trade Centre (ITC) jointly hosted a discussion on ‘Bridging the digital gap for women-led businesses in developing economies’.

Held at the United Nations New York headquarters on the margins of the UN Committee on the Status of Women (CSW67), the event highlighted some of the ongoing work of organisations dedicated to narrowing the digital gender gap as a means to drive women’s economic empowerment and trade-led growth.

In his opening remarks, Commonwealth Deputy Secretary-General, Dr. Arjoon Suddhoo, noted the importance of the partnership between the Commonwealth Secretariat and the International Trade Centre in using their platforms to advocate for women’s economic empowerment.

“We fully understand that helping women to leverage technology and innovative skills into their businesses can play an important role in economic growth, therefore events such as this, provides the opportunity for advocacy, information sharing and networking,” he said.

Digitalisation is instrumental to increased productivity and increased economic growth. However, while the gains of digitalisation have been impressive, research shows that there is a widening digital access gap between men and women and this gap progressively widens as technologies get more sophisticated.

Also speaking at the event, Deputy Executive Director of ITC, Dorothy Tembo, said:

“The digital economy is an area where we see strong potential for growth for women in trade. We take a multipronged, ecosystem approach to promote women’s participation in the digital economy through three key strategies: training women entrepreneurs in digital skills, supporting the adoption of technologies to distinguish themselves from competitors, and collaborating with governments and businesses to provide access to markets and finance.”

Ninety per cent of global trade is driven by Micro, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (MSMEs) and women are a fundamental part of this ecosystem. MSME’s also represent 50% of employment worldwide. In developing economies, the majority of women-led businesses are at the micro level and there is a strong need for support to help these women scale their businesses.

Taking on an interactive format, participants, mostly female entrepreneurs, were given the opportunity to share their stories, discuss what their organisations are doing to bridge the digital gap, identify opportunities for growth and make recommendations for the future, such as creating more networking and mentoring opportunities for female-led business owners.

The event is part of a joint initiative of the Commonwealth Secretariat’s Trade Competitiveness Section, which provides technical assistance to member countries for improving their trade competitiveness in global markets; the Gender Section, which works to advance gender equality, women’s rights and women’s empowerment in all social, economic and political spheres; and the International Trade Centre to strengthen ties to help countries achieve sustainable and inclusive economic development.

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