Statement: Get girls connected for equality

Statement by Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Director of UN Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka for International Girls in ICT Day, 23 April 2020


In developing countries, and around the world, there are millions of girls who could right now be learning from home – if only they were connected. On International Girls in ICT Day, we urge governments not to leave these girls behind.

Almost half the world’s population is still offline; with girls, women and other marginalized groups least likely to have access to technology. Now, as the COVID-19 pandemic has moved so many aspects of daily life online, this lack of connectivity has become far more significant. 91 per cent of the world’s student population is currently impacted by nationwide school closures in 191 countries. Without access to online and mobile learning, girls face damaging exclusion.

These digital disparities reflect the inequality and discrimination that exists in all our societies, especially for the least privileged. Overall, the global Internet user gap is 17 per cent and the digital gender gap exists in every country and continues to grow. In the least-developed countries 70 per cent of young people are not yet online. Yet there are clear signs of change. The number of African internet users is growing by 20 per cent a year. We must ensure that this continues and expands in every part of the world to equalize access so that young people can capitalize on all the benefits of the digital world.

As the UN, we are asking Governments to strive to provide universal and affordable access to the Internet in least developed countries by 2020 as one of the targets of the Sustainable Development Goals. We need to assure full connectivity for everyone and to cater for those who are not online.