Statement by Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Director of UN Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka for International Girls in ICT Day, 22 April 2021

Connected girls create brighter futures

Date: Thursday, April 22, 2021

Every girl has a right to be connected and to play her part in shaping a more equal, green and tech-driven future. This is the world we are building together through Generation Equality, and specifically, through our collective work on the Technology and Innovation blueprint, which proposes goals to bring about a more equal and diverse digital transformation.

Last month, at the Generation Equality Forum in Mexico City, we launched game-changing blueprints in an acceleration plan designed to dismantle the remaining barriers to gender equality over the next five years. The leaders of the Action Coalition on Technology and Innovation for Gender Equality- one of six such coalitions- defined actions that are concrete, game-changing, measurable and require multi-stakeholder collaboration.

We aim to halve the gender digital divide by 2026. The gender gap for global internet use currently stands at 17 per cent and rises to 43 per cent in the world’s Least Developed Countries. In this era of remote learning, when girls lack access to affordable internet and to a computer or tablet, it means they risk being left behind – for good. Predictions show an additional 11 million girls may not return to the classroom after the COVID-19 crisis. For every girl, the goal must be meaningful connectivity – broadband that is reliable, fast and regularly available – along with access to digital technologies and universal digital literacy.

We also aim to see investments towards feminist technology and innovation increased by 50 per cent to better respond to women and girls’ most pressing needs and ensure that we do not reinforce the gender stereotypes that prevent many girls from pursuing studies in ICT fields. We know that the jobs of the future will be driven by technology and innovation, and women must be at the forefront of this transformation. In the United States alone, computer science research jobs are predicted to grow 19 per cent by 2026, yet women in that sector earn just 18 per cent of computer science bachelor’s degrees. Globally, only 28.4 per cent of people engaged in STEM careers are women and in sub-Saharan Africa an average of 30 per cent are women. The Action Coalition blueprint addresses such gaps with the goal of doubling the number of women and girls working in technology and innovation. We must also work to eliminate the cyberviolence that targets younger women, and which has spiked along with other forms of gender-based violence during the COVID-19 crisis. The blueprint calls for boosting government and corporate accountability for policies and solutions to end online and tech-related violence and discrimination, so that technology remains a force for good.

Today, and every day, we recognize that digital power must be in the hands of girls. We have a unique window and momentum now to secure bold commitments that will ensure girls are connected and empowered to create the brighter futures the world needs.