Women entrepreneurs need digital empowerment

Context: A digital gap highlighted by the covid pandemic must be bridged for progress to be made on entrepreneurial gender parity.

Why women entrepreneurship needs to be encouraged in the society?

Better educated and healthier generations: Encouraging women entrepreneurship could play a pivotal role in uplifting India’s economy and bring about improvements on various social indicators linked to the quality of life and well-being of families.

As their role as primary caregivers in the family, women tend to prioritize the well-being of their families. Therefore, they spend a considerable portion of their income on ensuring better education for their children along with the health and nutrition of family members. This results in better educated and healthier generations.

Positive impact on the GDP: Past studies have indicated that promoting women’s participation in employment and entrepreneurship in India can potentially increase the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) by $0.7 trillion by 2025.

What is the present situation wrt women entrepreneurship in India?

The contribution of women to India’s GDP is estimated at just 17% as compared to the global average of 37%, with the share of women-led micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) being a meagre 14%

What are the reasons for low participation in workforce and entrepreneurship?

Deep-seated patriarchy: Patriarchy dictates that women should only engage in household chores rather than in income-earning activities. As a result, women entrepreneurs often face a lack of information, technical know-how and access to technology, which adversely impacts the sustainability and scalability of their startups.

Little or no access to digital information and platforms: In India, digital penetration in terms of mobile-internet usage by women was likely to be 33% less than that of men. Even among families that do own smartphones or have internet connections, male counterparts are usually in possession of these digital resources instead of women. Only 54% women have a mobile phone that they use on their own.

This has caused women entrepreneurs to suffer more in the wake of pandemic-induced disruptions, as their low internet usage for business purposes meant they had very limited capacity to make a quick shift towards internet-based solutions.

What are the various measures that have been taken to bridge this digital gap?

Gender equality and digital development are intimately linked, making the adoption of digital solutions by women entrepreneurs imperative.

Global level

The Digital Development Global Practice adopted by the World Bank recently focuses on these five pillars of women’s digital empowerment: a) digital infrastructure, b) public platforms, c) financial services, d) businesses and e) skills.

Domestic level

Various initiatives of the government—such as the Digital Literacy Mission, Pradhan Mantri Grameen Digital Saksharta Abhiyan, Aadhaar-enabled payment systems and Digi Dhan Abhiyan, among others—have focused on this aspect as a tool for empowerment.

Niti Aayog’s Women Entrepreneurship Platform has also proven helpful as a one-stop-shop for women entrepreneurs to access information, learning modules and also loans, support and mentorship digitally.

Corporate-led initiatives have also have worked to bridge gaps in internet access and generate awareness among women entrepreneurs.

– Google Internet Saathi

– EdelGive Foundation’s UdyamStree campaign

– Facebook Pragati, etc,

Banks and other financial institutions have also conducted ‘going-digital’ camps aimed at helping micro-entrepreneurs gain access to digital financial means.

The FICCI-FLO Empowering the Greater 50% mission also lays a special emphasis on the digital inclusion of women.

What is the way forward?

There needs to be a better adoption of these initiatives at the grassroots level in order to empower women entrepreneurs across the country. Not only must they have access to digital technology, they should also feel confident of using it to conduct their enterprise operations.

As smartphones can prove to be expensive for micro-scale firms, awareness of financing options for smartphones is paramount.

If the India is to realize its vision of achieving a $5 trillion economy, digital technology must henceforth be an integral part of all its entrepreneurial development programmes for women.

Source: This post is based on the article “Women entrepreneurs need digital empowerment” published in Livemint on 27th Apr 22.

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