Women 20 International Summit addresses worldwide digital gender inequality

The GSMA has also weighed in on developing action plans for the digital empowerment of women.


Digital inclusion was a major theme of the Women 20 (W20) International Summit in Buenos Aires earlier this month, with the Global System for Mobile Communications (GSMA) offering input for how to promote gender equality and digital inclusion through smartphone adoption.

Buenos Aires hosted the W20 Summit from October 1-3. The summit marked the end of a year-long international dialogue process aimed at developing action plans for the empowerment of women.

Throughout the year, the GSMA served as Topic Chair on Digital Inclusion, one of the focus topics of W20. The GSMA’s recommendations for bridging the digital gender divide were part of a final communiqué presented to leaders of the world’s 20 largest economies, a group more commonly known as the G20.

The GSMA’s Mobile Gender Gap Report 2018 found that in low- and middle-income countries women are, on average, 10% less likely than men to own mobile phones, and 26% less likely to use mobile Internet. Given that for most of the world’s population mobile is also the primary way to access the Internet, this gap must be closed to ensure women do not lose out on the socio-economic benefits of full participation in the digital economy.

With this goal, the GSMA’s work as Topic Chair involved creating dialogues with international organisations and experts, as well as coordinating a remote network of delegates for the preparation of papers on the subject. The main product of this work was a policy brief, which set out recommendations for bridging the digital gender gap. The document points out, among other things, the need to address key barriers related to accessibility, affordability, safety, digital skills training and content relevance. It also highlights the potential of digital inclusion to contribute to the other three focus points of W20: labour and financial inclusion, and rural women’s development.

“The GSMA has been privileged to help shape the W20 recommendations, which will provide an actionable roadmap for the G20 nations to drive gender equality policies around the world,” said Mats Granryd, GSMA director general.

“Our role here is a sign of our commitment to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and, particularly in this case, SDG number five, gender equality. We also support this SDG via other initiatives, such as Connected Women, through which mobile operator partners have delivered life-enhancing digital services to more than 22 million women in Africa, Asia and Latin America.”

At the W20 Summit, Granryd was part of the “Looking into the Future of Work” panel, along with W20 Argentina chair Susana Balbo, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s Gabriela Ramos, and UN Women executive director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka. Other GSMA leaders including Connected Women and Connected Society and Mobile for Development head Claire Sibthorpe and Latin America regional marketing director Paula Ferrari, also took part in panels and discussions at the W20 Summit.

Digital inclusion for girls

On October 4, as a side event to the W20 Summit, GSMA Latin America hosted a Tech4Girls workshop in its offices. At the event, teenage girls from Buenos Aires were able to participate in a mobile coding interactive activity as a way of inspiring them to pursue STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education and careers.

This was the first Latin American edition of a series of Tech4Girls events originally initiated by GSMA North America. It is part of Women4Tech, a programme aimed at reducing the gender gap in the tech industry.

“We are proud to see that our initiatives are being implemented in different regions, proving that we are helping connect everyone and everything to a better future all around the world,” said Granryd.

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