Modern life is increasingly driven by technology and digital tools can provide effective solutions to the issues faced by the world’s most vulnerable children.
What is digital development?
Digital development or ICT4D (information and communication technology for development) describe the use and application of technology and digital tools in international development.
For Plan International, this means applying technology for social, economic and political development with a focus on supporting the most vulnerable children, especially girls.
Girls digitally map city safety
Alongside Australia’s Monash University and the online mapping provider CrowdSpot, we have developed the Free to Be app that allows girls to identify where they feel safe and unsafe in 5 major cities across the world.
The results will allow Plan International and young people to advocate for girls’ voices to be included in city planning processes.
Why is ICT4D important?
For many of us, technology is a core part of everyday life. We use phones, tablets and computers to search for information, navigate to new places, pay bills and connect with our family and friends.
Technology also plays a key role in international development. While the digital revolution has not advanced at an equal pace across the world and marginalised groups continue to be excluded, the introduction of new tools has brought improvements.
Vital health information has been shared via SMS messages, radio has been used to educate people about issues like child marriage and television has been an effective medium for sharing information about social change.
Today, the number of digital tools at our disposal are endless. Smartphones offer a range of new ways to communicate, learn and collaborate. Drones can deliver medical supplies to remote locations. Solar powered devices are in use in the most remote locations, offering power to people with no access to an electrical grid.
When used smartly, technology can offer us new ways to address the challenges faced by children. We can make our work more efficient and more transparent with digital data collection and analytics, and we can ensure the voices of marginalised people reach decision makers and leaders everywhere.
Skills and opportunities for young people
Through our Yes! Digital Ecosystem programme, we are supporting young people to gain the digital skills and confidence they need to get good jobs. The courses are designed by experts who understand the country context and job market so young people learn skills that are relevant and desirable to employers where they live.
How does technology affect girls’ lives?
Technology is yet another area where there is a notable, and in some places even a growing gap between boys and girls. Around the world, especially in developing countries, prevailing gender inequalities are reflected in access to digital tools and boys are able to use and benefit from technology at higher rates than girls.
Deeply rooted stereotypes about technology being more suitable for boys prevent girls from reaping the benefits of technological advances. The cost of devices and data is a bigger barrier for women and girls and concerns over girls’ safety in online spaces is often a reason for parents not allowing their daughters to use computers and smartphones.
Girls also still lack role models in the world of technology and therefore might not consider studying and working in the technology field. Male dominance in the tech sector impacts the type of problems technology is used to solve as well as how technology behaves.
Global engagement at the ICT4D conference
Plan International is a content partner at the 11th Global Digital Development Conference taking place in Kampala, Uganda from April 30 to May 3, 2019. The conference brings together hundreds of public, private and civil society organisations from the development and humanitarian community to share, learn and innovate.
We will be co-leading the digital diversity track which focuses on gender and disability. We’re bringing this new track to the conference to ensure inclusion is at the heart of digital development. Unless we bridge the digital gender divide, girls and women will be left behind by the fourth industrial revolution.
We will also be sharing some of our work on digital birth registration, a chatbot, digital safeguarding and our SmartUp Factories, as well as learning from and connecting with other organisations.
What is Plan International’s approach?
Plan International implements a variety of programmes that are either technology enabled or contribute towards bridging the digital gender divide. As an endorser of the Principles for Digital Development*, we are committed to using technology in a responsible manner following best practices.
Our programmes include using Minecraft to involve children in urban planning, monitoring teacher absences from schools via SMS, using virtual reality films to educate people about female genital mutilation and developing an application that helps prevent child marriages.
We also ensure that girls and women have equal access to learning relevant technical skills and digital literacy in school and through training programmes to be able to take advantage of technology and digital tools.
*Plan International is not responsible for content on external websites