3 hours. That’s how long it used to take me to drive the local women’s group I worked with in rural Kenya from their village to the nearest bank -- 15 years ago. When I visited these women a few months back, I watched as they electronically transferred money via their smart phones to their bank accounts in a matter of minutes. Technology is clearly a key ingredient in the economic empowerment of girls and women. Learning to utilize today’s technologies can lead to new economic, entrepreneurial and educational opportunities; and they are rapidly making life simpler and more efficient.
Technology also creates prospects for social and personal change. Two 14-year old girls in Egypt who participated in an Intel digital literacy program were tasked with the goal of using the technology skills they had learned to address a local issue in their community. They came up with a plan to fight illiteracy in their community, started a program, and received government funding to pay a teacher to run it. The girls learned that they can be decision makers, and that they have the power to change lives.
Despite the opportunities technology creates for enhancing economic activity and improving productivity, a technology divide exists. This is particularly salient for girls and women. In most emerging markets for example, women lag behind men in using the Internet, mobile phones, and radios. For example, women are estimated to account for just 25 percent or less of Internet users in Africa, 22 percent in Asia, 38 percent in Latin America, and a mere 6 percent in the Middle East.
Addressing this divide is part of Intel’s core business objectives and our strategic corporate vision to, “Connect and enrich the lives of every person on earth” using technology. Economic empowerment and education are two key drivers of innovation as well as girls’ and women’s advancement. With our partners, Intel provides educational programs, out of school learning opportunities, technology access, entrepreneurship training, and scholarships to empower women and girls and enable them to fully engage in the 21st century economy. When women receive training in digital literacy, entrepreneurship, and business skills, they can elevate themselves professionally and break through the challenges they face.
Creating an enabling environment, driving research to assess the gender gap, spreading awareness, supporting programs to equip girls and women with technology tools, and innovative partnerships are all integral elements to bridging this gender and technology divide.
To learn more about women in ICT see: WISENET: the Women in ICTs Shared Excellence Network