An abstract image of a data centre
Photo by Ben Wicks on Unsplash

On 30 May 2022, UNESCO organised a high-level session at the WSIS Forum on “Mainstreaming Gender Equality on Digital Transformation through Capacity Building”.

The session discussed the impacts of the increasing use of advanced technology on gender equality and access to information (WSIS Action Line 3). It builds on the findings of UNESCO reports on “The Effects of AI on the Working Lives of Women” and “Multistakeholder AI Development: 10 building blocks for inclusive policy design”.

In her Opening Keynote, Onica N. Makwakwa, Head of Africa, Alliance for Affordable Internet highlighted the financial implications, if women do not take part in the digital economy.

“5.25 billion dollars are at loss if we do not bridge the gender digital divide. It is possible to achieve gender equality, but we all need to be committed to it.”

Onica N. Makwakwa Head of Africa, Alliance for Affordable Internet World Wide Web Foundation

She further laid out how language and capacity challenges, financial constraints, and the lack of access to digital technologies withhold many women and girls from participating in the digital world.

The discussion on “Digital economy: What skills do women need and how can women be supported to acquire these?”, covered by Dorothy Gordon, Gina Neff and Onica N. Makwakwa, underlined the changing skills requirements in the digital economy, and the challenges and opportunities for women to enter the digital economy. The panelists highlighted the challenging and conditions needed for women to be able to acquire the skills desired for tomorrow’s workforce in the digital economy.

The contexts within which women experience AI differ widely; there are more AI jobs in some places than others, but women everywhere are experiencing changes in the way they do their jobs, interact with their governments and live their lives due to AI.  Better AI literacy, and skills for all women are essential.

Dorothy Gordon Chair of UNESCO’s Information for all Programme

Ms Gordon emphasized that technology is present in our everyday lives and society therefore needs to revamp and redesign the technology for the benefit of all, while referring to World Wide Web Foundation’s REACT approach and UNESCO’s ROAM-X indicators as useful frameworks.

The participants also noted the need to adapt school curricula to skill children with the digital competencies relevant in the future as a sustainable channel for strengthening capacities of girls and women to participate in the digital economy.

On the policy making front, Gina Neff, Executive Director of the Minderoo Centre for Technology and Democracy at Cambridge University highlighted the unavailability of gender disaggregated data as an impediment to developing gender sensitive and transformative policies.

This post original appeared on the UNESCO website.