DigitALL: Innovation and Technology for Gender Equality (A Reflection on the Need to Harken to the Call to leave no one Behind).
ATER, Solomon Vendaga
In 2015 just after the conclusion of the global mission of attaining the millennium development goals that began in the wake of the new millennium, the nations of the world under the aegis of the United Nations met together to chart another course towards a more equal and sustainable world. The outcome of that meeting is what is known today as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SDGs represent a set of 17 ideals or step-by-step guides to attaining the desired inclusive and equal world by 2030. In fact, the cardinal philosophy of these goals is to leave no one behind. Nations of the world from thence have made commitments to foster the attainment of these goals. This year’s International Women’s Day theme, “DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality,” underscores the imperativeness of what these goals seek to achieve.
Technology and Innovations have been at the heart of development and relevance in today’s world. Covid-19 showed us how relevant technology is in our lives. However, it also exposed us to how dependent and disadvantaged we can be without the opportunity to acquire the skills and use these technologies. The global outlook after the pandemic dramatically changed, and a new phase of living has dawned. In this face, technology and innovation become a necessity for relevance. However, there has been a wide gap in acquiring the digital skills and knowledge that will drive inclusion in a tech-driven world. Expectedly, those who lack these skills stand the risk of suffering socio-economic and political relevance.
Inequality has remained a global malaise. World Bank reported in 2022 that around 2.4 billion working-age women are not afforded equal economic opportunities, and 178 countries maintain legal barriers that prevent their full economic participation. Accordingly, the World Bank’s Women, Business and the Law 2022 reported that in 86 countries, women face some form of job restriction, and 95 countries do not guarantee equal pay for equal work.
Globally, in 2022, it was reported that 62% of men use the internet, compared with only 57% of women. Sadly, of the estimated 2.7 billion people currently unconnected, most are women and girls. The figures in developing countries like Nigeria will likely be smaller than that. Here, it is only about 19% of women can access the internet. According to CIO, only 38% of women who majored in computer science work in the field compared to 53% of men, and only 24% of women with an engineering degree still work in engineering compared to 30% of men. In another statistic, women make up only 28% of the workforce in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), and men vastly outnumber women majoring in most STEM fields in college. The gender gaps are particularly high in some of the fastest-growing and highest-paid jobs of the future, like computer science and engineering.
Despite calls for inclusion, women must still be represented in IT roles. Statistics have shown that in IT work, ranging from higher education to workplace environments, there is a clear picture of the challenges women face in finding equal footing in a career in IT.
This year’s theme calls for a deliberate effort to infuse a culture of inclusion in our world. Most importantly, it calls for a gender-responsive tech atmosphere.
Applauding the few women who have lingered through despite all odds
Significantly, this year’s IWD also allows us to identify and celebrate those women who have surmounted the numerous challenges to linger through the space of relevance and have made positive giant strides in the tech world today. Women like Adora Nwodo of Microsoft, Abiola Eniola Aminu, Aniekan Inyang, Reshma Saujani, founder and CEO of Girls Who Code, Susan Wojcicki, CEO of YouTube, Danah Boyd, founder and president of Data & Society, etc. We also have the opportunity to celebrate extraordinary women like Ngozi Okonjo Iweala, Chimamanda Adichie, Leymah Gbobee, Michelle Obama, Dora Akinyuli, etc.
What can be done to change the narrative?
Interestingly, this year’s IWD calls for the following efforts from global, regional, and global governments;
- Increase access for girls and women to digital skills and competencies, STI and STEM education opportunities, including engineering, computer science, and informatics, to ensure gender equality in emerging STI fields such as nanotechnologies, engineering for the SDGs and Artificial Intelligence;
- Provide access to STEM education to young girls/women in Africa’s least developed communities through hands-on micro-science;
- Enable women to take leadership roles among relevant university research programs;
- Advance the scientific careers of young women scientists and give visibility to their scientific work in all related fields of technology and innovation through partnership with bodies like L’Oréal-UNESCO “Women in Science Programme” and the Organization for Women Scientists in Developing Countries;
- The internal organization should support member States to;
- review their national STEM education systems from a gender perspective; develop, monitor, and evaluate gender transformative STI policies and systems, particularly in Africa;
- close the digital gender divide, promote universal digital literacy, and ethical use of AI that is free of gender bias and stereotypes through the implementation of the Global Recommendations on the Ethics of Al;
- provide funding for Ph.D. researchers from developing countries
- provide grants and awards to early career fellows, for instance, Africa’s Women Award for Digital Innovation
- Encourage women in tech competitions across the globe. UNESCO can champion this.
- As a matter of priority, public and private tech institutions should adopt a gender-responsive approach to staffing the population and increase the priority on the up-skilling of its women staff.
When the above is done religiously, technology and innovation will become a veritable tool for attaining the global goal of an inclusive society by 2030. Let all the governments of the world and all whose activities impact our lives take on the culture of inclusion and ensure that women’s digital rights are not trampled but respected. When we do all of these, we will leave no one behind.
About the Author
ATER, Solomon Vendaga is a penultimate law undergraduate at the University of Abuja. He has keen interest in Taxation Law, Technology Law, IP Law and Public Policy. Ater has in the last 3 years researched and worked on projects that promote gender equality. He is the Program Associate at Sabilaw, and the Program Assistant at African Center on Entrepreneurship and Information Development. This piece is dedicated to extraordinary women in my life that have been making efforts to be relevant in an unequal world especially to the one I so much love, Patience Jibrin Ibrahim who also marks her birthday today. He can be reached via email@example.com or +2348025263078
This work is published under the free legal awareness project of Sabi Law Foundation (www.SabiLaw.org) funded by the law firm of Bezaleel Chambers International (www.BezaleelChambers.com). The writer was not paid or charged any publishing fee. You too can support the legal awareness projects and programs of Sabi Law Foundation by donating to us. Donate here and get our unique appreciation certificate or memento.
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