Women across the world report less access, lower digital literacy and lower use of digital technologies than men do. While women and girls in SOS Children’s Villages programmes have the same access to IT skills development as their male peers, SOS Children’s Villages International CEO Ingrid Maria Johansen calls on ending the gender digital divide everywhere and bringing connectivity to all members of society.
Gender and tech across the globe
Although recognised as a human right, having meaningful access to the Internet is still a privilege for many around the world. The digital divide (the gap between those who have access to and can meaningfully use digital technologies versus those who are systemically restricted from it) is the result of several barriers (age, income, geography) often worsened by social norms such as gender or cultural beliefs.
Ingrid Maria Johansen, CEO at SOS Children’s Villages International says, “The digital divide acutely affects the children and young people supported by SOS Children’s Villages.
“If you don’t have adequate parental care, you are particularly vulnerable and lag behind your peers.
“Women and girls across the world overall report less access, lower digital literacy and lower use of digital technologies than their male counterparts.
“Hence girls without adequate parental care face particularly high barriers to access”.
According to USAID (2021), in comparison to men, women worldwide are 21% less likely to have access to the Internet.
Barriers to employment
While the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the digitalisation of many basic services worldwide, it enlarged the gender gap.
Without mobile phone or regular access to the Internet, women and girls have limited access to basic services such as healthcare, education and other social services, let alone job opportunities.
According to the UN, over 90 % of the jobs worldwide require some form of digital skills (UNICEF, 2021). Many of the families SOS Children’s Villages supports are single-parent families where a young mother is in charge of the children.
Developing realistic solutions
“To support young women without adequate parental care to become self-reliant and break inter-generational poverty, we need to ensure equal access to opportunities and the skills of tomorrow”, Johansen said.
“Tackling the gender digital divide means addressing access to digital technology, digital literacy and online safety. We need to bring women and girls connectivity that is affordable and relevant to them.
“Let’s bring down the cost of connections and develop digital skills, devices and platforms that meet the real-world needs of girls without adequate parental care!”
Gender and technology in SOS Children’s Villages
For SOS Children’s Villages, gender equality is a guiding principle. Thanks to our tailored approaches and case management, we continually empower women and girls, especially in education and employability.
Digital and IT skills of female participants in SOS Children’s Villages programmes are at the same level as those of male participants (basic skills 33 % women and 34 % men).
Nevertheless, our data shows IT and digital skills need to be further developed, as only 15 % of women and 14% of men have intermediate skills.
Empowering women and girls through tech
SOS Children’s Villages is empowering women and girls – as well as boys, caregivers and communities – with technology through different projects, which include a gender element to achieve success:
YouthCan! and YouthLinks: Youth unemployment remains a major challenge globally. YouthCan! is SOS Children’s Villages response to this challenge, strengthening skills of young people in our target group and supporting them transitioning to economic independence, with the support of our corporate partners. As part of this programme, YouthLinks Community was a central online platform for young people accompanied by SOS Children’s Villages worldwide to access opportunities while transitioning into self-reliance.
Rafiki: The artificial intelligence Digital Care Assistant Rafiki supports caregivers in childcare, protection, education, and day-to-day matters.
KomikSOS: Our training curriculum of digital skills includes a comprehensive cyber safeguarding module addressed both at programme participants and caregivers to ensure girls, as well as boys, use digital technologies safely and responsibly, particularly social media.
YouthSpeaks: SOS Children’s Villages YouthSpeaks project sees young women and men co-design the digital future of youth participation. By including the voices of young women from the early stages of the process, we’re ensuring that the final digital product is tailored to their needs.
Read more about Digital Villages here.