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Bridging digital divide can empower women

by kenya-tribune
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By LILIOSA MUTURI
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Exclusion and inequality are major hindrances to women’s progress, and the digital economy is no exception.

And although that is more of a global than Kenyan problem, it is more apparent in developing countries.

Breaking the cycle would necessitate reassessing how inclusion is factored. The “Global System for Mobile Communications (GSMA) 2019” report says in Kenya, 10 per cent of women are less likely to own a mobile phone compared to men.

The report further says women are 23 per cent not likely to have internet access than their male counterparts.

Several other issues culminate in women lagging behind men in digital skills, says the report, citing the admission by women to seek help with mobile internet as opposed to men.

In an environment where formal education has not wholly taken root, a consequential number of women in the continent cannot independently use the internet.

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Despite the hurdles, the notion that empowering a woman is empowering the society continues to hold true.

It is theorised that 70 per cent of the food in Africa is grown by women. Which begs the question: how much more would we achieve food security if women had the digital tools that enhance agriculture?

That calls for more than one plan of action, although there are a couple of initiatives to avert the crisis of women being left out in the future job market.

One is acknowledging, then addressing, existing and arising challenges faced by women — not solely by government institutions but also corporations and non-governmental organisations.

Firms could practise more inclusivity and facilitate peer collaboration and that of the government while alienating bias.

In addition, more emphasis has to be placed on integration of internet training in schools, starting from the primary level.

Curriculums also need to be tailored to the fact that both men and women will contribute to economic growth.

It is crucial to dispel myths and misconceptions that bar women from taking active roles in the digital scene. These range from iterations, such as “tech is a man’s world”, to justifiable concerns on internet safety.

An ample opportunity exists in the digital economy to facilitate positive change for women.

It is worth noting that, when women are given dignified, digital work and paid a living wage, they are empowered to forge a new path, one that detours around the stigma indicating their only role is to have a family.

Reiterating the theory, a woman paid a living wage not only provides for her family, but also builds the economy by supporting the community.

To achieve inclusive growth, we must ensure that there are no gender disparities, which still remain among the world’s most pressing challenges.

Increasing opportunities for women will not only empower them, but also address social exclusion.

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