Need to bridge the gender technology gap

Synopsis: Access to technology is so crucial to ensure public health and safety. In recent years, health care has largely moved online, and it has resulted in the gender gap in accessing it.

Gender gap in access to technology
    • According to Global System for Mobile Communications (GSMA) estimates,
      • Around 390 million women in low- and middle-income countries do not have Internet access.
      • In South Asia, only 65% of women own a mobile phone.
      • Whereas, In India, only 14.9% of women were reported to be using the Internet.

How Gender gap in access to technology is impairing women’s access to health services?

    • Vaccine registration usually requires a smartphone or laptop. Men are thus more likely to get timely information and register than women and girls.
    • These gaps prevent women and LGBTQIA+ people from accessing critical services.
    • In India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan, for example, fewer women than men received the necessary information to survive COVID-19.
Why Women have limited access to technology?
    • Partly, the reasons are due to deeply held cultural beliefs.
      1. One, it is often believed that women’s access to technology will motivate them to challenge patriarchal societies.
      2. Two, there is also a belief that women need to be protected, and that online content can be dangerous for women, and it will expose them to risks.
    • As a consequence, girls and women who ask for phones face suspicion and opposition.

What are the steps being taken to promote gender equality in access to technology?

    • At UN Women, companies are encouraged to sign up and agree to principles that will lead to a more equitable future for all.
    • The Generation Equality Forum has agreed upon the goal to double the number of women and girls, working in technology and innovation.
    • By 2026, they aim to reduce the gender digital divide and ensure universal digital literacy.
    • Further, investments in feminist technology and innovation to support women’s leadership are being pushed forward.
    • The digital empowerment programmes and partnerships such as EQUALS led by UN Women facilitate more girls to choose STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) as their academic focus.
Way forward: Neutral world of technology
    • Today, most technologies that are available are created by men, for men, and do not necessarily meet everyone’s requirements. To establish a Neutral world of technology, Companies should start investing in Women related technologies.
    • For example, businesses can design apps specifically towards mothers or apps for women to access telemedicine consultation or digital networks to connect women to informal job opportunities, etc.,
    • Other than apps, built-in features on mobile phones, such as an emergency button connecting women to law enforcement, should also be considered.
    • Companies can benefit hugely if they target Women related technologies because Women and girls are the largest consumer groups left out of technology.
    • According to GSMA, closing the gender gap in mobile Internet usage in low- and middle-income countries would increase GDP by U.S.$700 billion over the next five years.

In the 1950s, dishwashers and washing machines were promoted as a method of emancipating women. Household goods producers, for example, target most of their advertising to women because they often control the household budget. Digital technology could be approached similarly.

Source: The Hindu

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