Despite the accumulated efforts and commitments of the past 20 years, today’s women and girls continue to face gender-based barriers that prevent them from accessing and utilising technology and digital tools at the same level as boys and men.
Promoting girls’ digital literacy and closing the digital gender gap will play an important role in achieving gender equality and promoting the rights of girls and women worldwide.
Plan International strives to build a world in which girls have the tools and the power to shape their own futures and influence decision making and policy processes at local and global levels. Technology is not a prerequisite for being a change agent or a leader, but it can be a powerful tool for girls’ voices to become even louder and reach even further. Similarly, social media can be used as a vehicle to spread inspirational stories of female leaders and connect activists and changemakers across the world.
Digital technologies have a strong potential to empower girls and women economically and socially. Girls feel safer and more connected when they have a mobile phone, and they use mobile phones to save time and money and access educational opportunities. Yet girls and women are, on average, less likely than men to own a mobile phone, use mobile data, social media apps or SMS.
There is also a stark gender disparity in access to the Internet, which limits the ability of girls and women to benefit from many innovations of the digital economy, such as digital payments and mobile money. The gender disparity in access to technology is compounded by a significant gender divide in terms of career and academic aspirations related to ICTs.
This briefing paper argues that promoting girls’ digital literacy and closing the digital gender gap will play an important role in achieving gender equality and promoting the rights of girls and women worldwide. Indeed, bridging the digital gender divide is essential in ensuring girls and women are not left behind in an increasingly digital future.
The paper also argues that actions promoting girls’ digital empowerment should be guided by the principle of engaging girls and women as active, capable partners in our work, not merely passive recipients or targets. Rather than making assumptions about what girls want and need from technology, it is important to work together with girls to strengthen and develop their use and creation of technology and digital tools.