UNESCAP: Digital gender divide prevents the Asia-Pacific region from benefiting from untapped talent in women and girls - UN

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“Our digital spaces are not yet gender-neutral and gender-inclusive. Access to the benefits of technological innovations has been unequal across the Asia-Pacific region,” underscored Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) in her opening remarks.

Only 54 per cent of women in the Asia-Pacific region use the Internet, compared with 59 per cent of men. In the region’s low- and middle-income countries, women are 20 per cent less likely to own a smartphone or to use the Internet on a mobile device than men. In addition, although some women and girls own digital devices, they often live in contexts where they do not have the autonomy to use them and, thus, are unable to leverage digital tools to benefit themselves.

Apart from insufficient digital access and skills, gender stereotypes and social norms continue to hinder the advancement of an equal digital transformation. Gender sensitivity in digital education systems and the development of new technologies are fundamental to reducing the digital access gap between men and women.

“Imagine Asia and the Pacific, where women and girls in all their diversity have equal opportunities to safely and meaningfully access, use, lead, and co-design technology with freedom, joy, and boundless potential. It is a fair wish and a possible dream. Let us all make women's rights a reality every day,” said Sarah Knibbs, Regional Director a.i., UN Women Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific.

Themed DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality, the regional commemoration further highlighted the crucial roles held and contributions made by women and girls working to transform the world into a more connected place. Panelists at the event explored several key areas such as the gendered impact of the digital revolution, meaningful connectivity to narrow the gender digital divide, gender-transformative technology design, and gender-inclusive environments for STEM education and careers.

Prominent discussants included Suriya Chindawongse, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Thailand to the United Nations, Rebecca Razvi, Asia-Pacific Head of Public Policy and Economic Graph, Linkedin, Kirthi Jayakumar, 30 for 2030 Youth Network and Rhea See, Co-Founder and Co-CEO, She Loves Tech, as well as other key stakeholders from across the region.

The event also served to promote resilient digital networks across the region as well as digital inclusion partnerships and regional cooperation between governments, the private sector and non-governmental organizations to ensure accessible and reliable connectivity for all in the region.

For more information: https://www.unescap.org/events/2023/asia-pacific-regional-commemoration-international-womens-day-2023-iwd-2023-digitall

Watch the regional commemoration: https://www.youtube.com/live/1rihHeM_v5I?feature=share

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