ICT4D - 1 February 2023

Empowering women and girls through digital technology

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 ICT skills development as their male peers, CEO Ingrid Maria Johansen calls on ending the gender digital divide everywhere and bringing connectivity to all members of society. 

Gender and technology across the globe 

Although recognized 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 a number of barriers (age, income, geography) often exacerbated by social norms such as gender or beliefs.    

"The digital divide acutely affects the children and young people supported by SOS Children’s Villages", said Ingrid Maria Johansen in her speech at the NetHope Global Summit 2022. "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”, stated Johansen. “A third of the world's population has never been connected. That is what we call the gender digital divide. 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.  

Covid-19 pandemic enlarged gender gap

While the Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated the digitalization of many of the basic services worldwide, it has enlarged the gender gap. Without mobile phone or regular access to the Internet, women and girls also have limited access to basic services such as health care, 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 mono-parental families where a young mother is in charge of the children. ​​​​​​​ 

​​​​​​​Develop solutions that fit reality! ​​​​​​​

"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 which 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 ICT 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 evidence that ICT and digital skills need to be further developed, since only 15 % of women have intermediate skills (14 % men).  

Projects that contribute to empowering women and girls through technology

SOS Children's Villages is empowering women and girls with technology through different projects, which include a gender element to achieve equitable success:

  • Digital Villages: Digital Villages is a global programme aiming to equip girls, boys and care practitioners with IT access and the necessary skills to engage meaningfully with technology.
  • One example of the implementation of Digital Villages is Learnio in Benin: Together with training implementation partner Learnio, SOS Children’s Villages Benin has established a digital freelancer training center for young people in our target group, located in the SOS Children's Village Abomey-Calavi.
  • 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 at caregivers to ensure that boys and (particularly) girls make a responsible and safe use of digital technologies, especially social media.

  • YouthSpeaks: SOS Children’s Villages has recently launched the YouthSpeaks project where young women and men co-design the digital future of youth participation. By means of including the voices of girls from the early stages of the process, we are ensuring that the final digital product is tailored to their needs and reality.

Text by Ute Hennig. Photo by Jakob Fuhr

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