Welcome to the

Digital Impact Alliance (DIAL)

Advancing an inclusive digital society


Category Archives: ICT4D

April 27, 2017

Overcoming the Digital Gender Divide: International Girls in ICT Day

By | Blog, Digital development, Global development, ICT4D, Principles for Digital Development, Technology

Girls in ICT DayIn early 2016 I visited a tech hub in Freetown, Sierra Leone that had been established by a young innovator who was passionate about advancing technology in his home country. The Sensi Tech Hub was a center of digital learning and entrepreneurship in a city that was still overcoming the devastating effects of Ebola. What stood out to me was a computer class in session as part of the hub’s Women in Tech initiative that provided basic computer skills to local women to increase their employability. These classes had become so popular that Sensi eventually offered separate morning and evening sessions to accommodate everyone who wanted to participate. The Women in Tech initiative is focused on educating young women in computer-based technologies to increase their employability, and creating a community of support and advocacy.

For me, this experience was enlightening because it reinforced the connection between computer education and employment for women in developing countries. Researchers Amy Antonio and David Tuffley in their report, The Gender Digital Divide in Developing Countries, noted that 40 percent of women surveyed indicated they were unfamiliar or uncomfortable with technology – a barrier that prohibited them from developing their computer and digital literacy skills. Technology and the internet can be a powerful economic and social tool for women. Greater access can increase women’s employment and educational opportunities, connect them to financial and health services, expose them to new information and enable them to become knowledge and information creators.

While the benefits are known, challenges exist to closer the digital gender gap. The United Nations’ World’s Women 2010 report showed that in half of the 55 countries they surveyed, less than 50 percent of women had access to the internet. In the lowest internet-penetration countries, that number dropped to less than 25 percent. In updated statistics from the ITU, the gender gap in global internet access has grown from 11 percent in 2013 to 12 percent in 2016 – despite an increase in practical initiatives to address this gap over the past three years. In Least Developed Countries (LDCs), that gap grows to 31 percent.

These figures are not insignificant; they are representative of a serious threat that exists for women around the world – that they will be left behind in the digital revolution, growing ever farther from the goal of equality. But these statistics also represent an opportunity.

Grassroots movements, like Sensi, are becoming an increasingly popular alternative to educating girls and young women. More examples include Jjiguene Tech Hub Senegal, a women-in-tech network promoting training programs and opportunities in ICT that are available to members, and AkiraChix in Nairobi, a tech hub founded by four women that offers a training program targeting young women from poor economic and social backgrounds. They offer certification courses in graphic design, web design, mobile application development, and hardware product design as well as ad hoc courses in ICT fields such as 3D modeling. These are just a few examples of the growing momentum the world over around digital literacy and ICT skills for women.

Today, DIAL celebrates International Girls in ICT Day – an initiative begun by ITU in 2012 to stimulate a global environment that empowers and encourages girls and young women to pursue careers in ICT. According to ITU, there currently exists an estimated shortfall of two million skilled ICT workers around the world, reflective of the significant gender divide in the sector (both in developed and developing countries). International Girls in ICT Day introduces young women to ICT careers and opportunities that are readily available to them, with the aim of educating girls, meeting the worker shortfall and closing the digital gender divide at the same time.

Around the world, ITU member organizations will hold events celebrating and engaging young women. Events have included hands-on workshops, job-shadowing, competitions, ICT career fairs and meet-and-greets with female practitioners. To date, over 240,000 girls have been reached through International Girls in ICT Day events.

If you would like to join an event today, an interactive map of events is available here. If you’re interested in hosting an event in 2018, more information on how to do so can be found here. Follow along or share your International Girls in ICT Day event using #girlsinict on all social media platforms.

Closing the digital gender gap will not be easy; it will involve addressing important barriers to access and education, and will likely require addressing cultural norms. But it isn’t impossible – and as long as there exists computer classes for women, and ICT Days for girls, then the divide will be closed.

This is the first post in a series on Overcoming the Digital Gender Divide. Check back for more on the role of women in ICT in the coming weeks.

 Allana Nelson joined DIAL in March 2017 as the Program Manager for the Principles for Digital Development on the Insights and Impact team. In this position, she is responsible for promotion, education, and advocacy of the Principles. Prior to joining DIAL, Allana worked at USAID on technology-based solutions to the Ebola response and recovery efforts in West Africa.



March 20, 2017

Making Better Use of Technology to Meet the SDGs

By | Blog, Global development, ICT4D, International development, Sustainable Development Goals, Technology

SDGsThe Digital Impact Alliance (DIAL) and the ITU (the UN’s information and computing technology agency) have joined forces and launched a program of work aimed at using technology to help the world meet the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)—a set of 17 goals and 169 targets for global development.

Given the breadth of the SDGs, there are pretty much unlimited opportunities to apply technology, but we (DIAL and the ITU) want to take a structured approach to identifying the priority opportunities—areas where technology can have the greatest impact.

Specifically, we are undertaking a research and analysis effort to:

  • Gather representative impact focused Use Cases across the SDGs and sectors
  • Identify technology-addressable needs across use cases
  • Extract common functional components and underlying foundational services that support the creation and implementation of technologies to support the use cases
  • Map components to existing appropriate technologies, highlighting gaps
  • Prioritize the resulting opportunities for further platform and product development to roll all the way up to meeting the needs across use cases and sectors

Which is a fancy way of saying that we want to pull together a researched, thoughtful framework and functional architecture that highlights the most valuable places to develop and deploy appropriate technology platforms to support the SDGs.

Of course we have no intention of doing this alone. The process will be open. We are eager to engage participants across sectors.

In that spirit, we kicked off work in Geneva on March 10 by inviting more than 40 representatives of tech companies, design firms, universities, UN agencies, foundations, and implementers that work across various sectors to collectively design the research and analysis process.

This creative and experienced group did a great job of tearing apart and rebuilding the plan, pushes us to act more iteratively and inclusively.

For me the most fun part of the two day workshop were the presentations by the tech and design firms who provided concrete examples of how they define requirements and build tech for customers in low and middle income countries.

The detailed explanation by Christian Merz of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation of how his team produced a similar analysis for the agriculture sector provided a solid base for a redesign process for the program overall and was a great reminder that we will be able to build off of and incorporate great work that has already been produced. This is the true joy of an open process!

Next up, we will review an initial set of use cases from a few sectors (health, agriculture, education) and produce a first analysis—posted publicly, for all to critique, improve. From there we will iterate several times, incorporating feedback on the analysis itself and additional use cases from new contributors and sectors. In each iteration the analysis—and resulting architecture of common components—will become more robust and comprehensive.

Jeff Wishnie is the senior director of platforms and services at the Digital Impact Alliance. In this position, Jeff works to increase the pace of innovation of digital platforms and services for the underserved. He brings 10 years of technology-for-development implementation experience and most recently was the senior director of program technology for Mercy Corps — an international humanitarian and development agency operating in 40+ countries.



back to top button