Working towards closing the digital gender gap in Asia

Apr 3, 2020
Working towards closing the digital gender gap in Asia

This post was written by Web Foundation Gender Policy Manager Ingrid Brudvig.

On February 18-20, the World Wide Web Foundation and the Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI), with support from the German Development Cooperation and Indonesian Ministry of Communication and Informatics facilitated an #eSkills4PolicyMakers workshop in Jakarta, Indonesia.

The workshop included participation from representatives from Ministries of ICT, Education and Gender from five countries across the Asia-Pacific region, including Indonesia, Cambodia, Laos, Philippines and Bangladesh.

It was the third in a series of workshops in partnership with the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, which also took place in 2019 in Maputo and Accra with stakeholders from across Eastern, Southern and West Africa.

The #eSkills4PolicyMakers initiative is one of the ways the Web Foundation is committed to tackling online gender inequality. The web can be a tremendous force for gender equality around the world.

But right now, it isn’t working for women and girls, as Sir Tim Berners-Lee outlined in his annual letter marking the web’s 31st birthday. Men are 21% more likely to be online than women — rising to 52% in the world’s least developed countries. Nearly two billion women around the world don’t have access to the web at all, depriving them of opportunities to use the web to learn, earn and have their voices heard.

Gender perspectives in technology policy are crucial as they acknowledge that women and men are socialised differently and as a result understand how these policies impact men and women differently. Further, women are not a homogenous group therefore policy should consider the experience of women from different socio-economic backgrounds, ethnicity, age etc.

Gender-responsive policy-making is not just about gender as a stand-alone issue — it is about making better policies that are accountable to all and serve the public interest.

How to Approach Gender-Responsive ICT Policymaking
– Ensure that all analysis conducted for the purposes of developing policies and plans integrate gender and gender considerations.
– Involve gender advocates and experts in the policy and planning process from the start to ensure women-centric policy development.
– Establish time-bound targets to achieve gender equality in access across all areas of policies and plans, from skills building to adoption and use.
– Consider allocating a percentage of the resources available to support women-centred activities, including resources to promote and support women ICT entrepreneurs, digital literacy training for women and girls, and targeted public access and other projects to support access and use for women and girls.
– Ensure that all skills building and training programmes are developed considering the needs of women and girls across all educational levels. These programmes should: consider what themes would be most relevant to participants; offer training opportunities for all levels, from basic skills to more advanced coding and design; consider the location of programmes and the gender of trainers.
– Establish quotas to ensure the equal participation of women and other marginalised groups in all programmes supported by national policies and plans, especially rural and poor populations.

Source: A4AI Affordability Report 2015-16

Addressing gender-responsive technology policymaking in the Asia-Pacific region is crucial given in Asia, 54.6% of men have access to the internet, compared to 41.3% of women. This represents a 32% gender gap. According to the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), between 2013 and 2017, the gender gap in Asia grew from 17% to 24%.

Beyond the issue of internet access gaps, the Women’s Right Online partners – a global, locally-led network of advocates working to place the digital gender gap at the center of all policy agendas – from India, Indonesia, the Philippines and Myanmar have identified other, equally pressing concerns – such as online gender based violence; censorship of content related to sexual and reproductive health; online privacy and data protection; and women and girl’sinclusion in digital skills and education and technologyentrepreneurship.

Through initiatives like Women’s Rights Online and #eSkills4PolicyMakers, we are committed to supporting government actors to reformulate their policies and ensure equal, affordable and meaningful access to the internet for women and girls. Closing the gender gap is key to making sure women and girls across the globe can benefit from all the web has to offer.

To bridge the digital gender gap we need policymakers who understand the barriers to internet access and have the tools to promote more inclusive public policy. Through programs like #eSkills4PolicyMakers, we can share knowledge and skills to help governments create policies that specifically target groups that are too often marginalised in the digital sphere.

The #eSkills4PolicyMakers workshop in Jakarta was made up of participants from different sectors across the region working towards developing policies on a diversity of issues including:

  • Sexual harassment online and offline in educational institutions;
  • Women and e-commerce;
  • Women’s ICT entrepreneurship;
  • Rural broadband internet connectivity and closing the gender gap;
  • Personal data protection;
  • Digital skills and ICT in education;
  • Cybercrime prevention;
  • Online gender based violence legislation.

Some of the feedback from participants:

“The process is useful and the frameworks are great. Some of these are new to me. I will apply this to education and ICT policy that I’m involved in Bangladesh and we need to have more of such exercises in the policy formulation process.”

“I was involved in digital security policymaking. We could have benefited immensely from this policy process. It will make government policies much richer.”

“I have benefitted from how to identify real problems related to gender and ICT and how to develop effective policy responses.”

“I feel more empowered now to tackle the gender questions and using this process will be useful. The fact is applying the gender lens from the beginning to the end is particularly useful – gender is not a footnote in policymaking.”

“This has been a great workshop and we can use these exercises in getting the amendment of the cybercrime act from a gender perspective.”

The Jakarta #eSkills4PolicyMakers workshop supported policymakers with the knowledge, tools and resources to integrate gender equality measures and targets across all ICT/broadband and (digital) education strategies, policies, plans and budgets, ensuring they support women and girls in accessing and using the internet and broadband.

Policymakers who attended the workshop reported having gained knowledge to ensure national ICT, education and gender equality policies and programs close the gender digital divide.

We are encouraged that policymakers in attendance will apply the knowledge gained from the workshop to inform initiatives that support women and girls in accessing and using the internet.

We will follow up with participants to assess how they are working to develop and implement policy gender-responsive policy measures throughout the region.

We look forward to continuing to support policymakers to integrate gender equality into their ICT policies and national digital agendas.

Want to watch what some of the participants had to say about the workshop? Select a video below:

  • Tahmina Rahman, Gender and ICT researcher, Bangladesh
  • Alimatel Qibtiyah, Commissioner, National Commission of Violence Against Women Indonesia
  • Tum Yousos, Deputy Director, ICT Policy Department, Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications of Cambodia
  • Ulfah Dwiyanti, Head of Cooperation, Directorate General Informatics Application, Ministry of Communication and Informatics of Indonesia
  • Sathaphone Khamsitthi and Ms. Jirana Thavisay, Planning and Cooperation Department, Ministry of Post and Telecommunications of Laos