The Plight Of Women In Developing Nations:
Can Tech Uplift Them?

The Plight Of Women In Developing Nations:
Can Tech Uplift Them?

The Plight Of Women In Developing Nations:
Can Tech Uplift Them?
It has been found by the World Bank Group that over 300 million fewer women access the Internet in developing nations than men chiefly due to digital equality obstacles. Moreover, according to data from the International Telecommunications Union, there exists a 17 per cent gender gap in global Internet usage - a gap which is even more pronounced in less developed countries. Adding to this, women are consistently underrepresented in the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) industry.

The plight of women in developing nations is further compounded by the onset of the global pandemic. In regions such as Africa, women comprise approximately 70 per cent of cross-border traders - as noted by the Economic Commission for Africa. Consequently, this puts a halt to their economic activities and implicates their incomes due to borders being shut.

The connection between technology and women’s rights is best encapsulated in SDG 5, Gender Equality, which entails specific goals on harnessing technology to promote the empowerment of women. The pursuit of SDG 5 could also allow for a more inclusive economic path where the playing field is levelled between genders.

Consequently, this goes hand in hand with SDG 8, Decent Work and Economic Growth. In bridging the gender divide, this begs the question: How can tech uplift the plight of women, especially in developing nations?

Here are two crucial ways:

1) Poverty Reduction

As noted by Sonia Jorges of the Alliance for Affordable Internet, equalising the access to Internet has immense benefits. It adds approximately US$13-18 billion to annual Gross Domestic Product across 144 developing countries. Moreover, 90% of the income earned by women and girls is invested into their families and communities. Therefore, the otherwise scarce financial resources can be utilised to be spent on education for the female children, consequently improving educational access as well.

The Internet can also be seen as a pool of resources for women to further their education and upskill themselves through avenues such as online courses. The integration of women into the tech ecosystem also helps to boost female-owned businesses. For instance, in the case of Pakistan, an innovative food-ordering platform links home-based food enterprises run by women to a wider pool of customers and provides a safe virtual market place for them to sell their products.

More pertinently, in countries where women’s mobility is more restricted, technology allows women a source of income from the comforts and safety of their homes. Findings from a study done by Accenture also suggests that digital literacy not only promotes livelihoods amongst women, but also allows women to excel at their education. Just imagine the scale of impact that technology could generate!

2) Social Equality and Civil Rights Promotion

Tech can also uplift the plight of women by improving social equality and bolstering civil rights. For instance, Human Network International recently conducted a case study to test a system which gave women in Madagascar, access to information on their rights from their mobile phones.

After the program, it was found that 91 per cent of the women participants took on more decision-making within households. In the case of India, digital media has enabled women to not only bring about businesses with impact from their homes, it has also served as a platform for the budding of movements against harassment and violence. As a forum for community building, the connectedness of digital media eases women’s efforts to empower one another by amplifying each other’s ideas.

The social impact of women working in tech companies also cannot be understated. Consider the many women who are at the heart of data, technology, and innovation to design and drive initiatives that uplift vulnerable communities.

Firstly, there is the story of Rediet Abebe, an Ethiopian data scientist who helped to create Black in AI which is dedicated to bolster the presence of black persons in the fields of AI and machine learning. Abebe’s research also touches upon AI for social good. In addition, there is the story of Victoria Coleman, the CEO of Atlas AI, a tech startup that uses satellite technology, AI, and data to analyse the developing world. The broader aim is to provide insights on human development indicators and make strides towards achieving the SDGs.

Additionally, having more women in the workforce is also tremendously beneficial. Greater diversity comes with having employees of different backgrounds and skill sets; allowing for greater innovation and creativity. Furthermore, a diverse and inclusive team allows for the company to market its business to customers of various backgrounds - a boost for revenue!

The challenge, of course, remains in getting more women in the workforce and enabling them to break the glass ceiling to reach the top.

Having shown the tremendous potential of tech to uplift the plight of women in developing nations, do you have an idea on how you could empower and harness the amazing potential of women in these developing countries?

Do join us at Startup Weekend Global if you share the same passion for championing this worthy cause!

October 12, 2021