Over the last year, there has been a sudden and profound shift in the role of digital technology in education systems around the world. Many countries have turned to online learning platforms after temporarily closing their schools and other learning spaces to contain the COVID-19 pandemic. However, there are growing concerns that the global move toward online learning and other forms of educational technology could be leaving girls and young women behind. As the world moves toward a wider adoption of online learning after COVID-19, these gaps may threaten the crucial global progress made on girls’ education over the last 25 years.
Today, it is harder for a girl or young women to study online than it is a boy or young man. There are significant gender inequalities in access to digital resources which are likely to have curtailed the education of girls and young women during the COVID-19 pandemic. More men than women are using the internet in all regions of the world, except for the Americas. There are pronounced gender gaps in digital access in the least developed countries, where only 15 percent of women use the internet compared to 28 percent of men. In poorer contexts, women are eight percent less likely than men to have a mobile phone – and 20 percent less likely to use the internet on it. In other words, in the countries and contexts where girls and young women could stand to benefit the most from online learning they are the least likely to have access to it.
There is also a gender gap in digital skills. The gap between boys and girls and men and women is apparent at every level, from simpler tasks such as using apps on a mobile phone, to advanced skills like coding. Women and girls are four times less likely to know how to programme computers, and 13 times less likely to file for technology patents. These gaps appear to be growing, despite at least two decades of interventions to move closer to gender equality.
Finally, there are growing concerns about girls’ safety online. Parents and caregivers can limit girls’ time online because of the heighted risk of sexual exploitation, cyberbullying and exposure to harmful content. Girls and women around the world routinely face gender-based harassment online and it is more difficult for them to navigate digital spaces safely than it is for boys and men.
Today, the international community is thinking about the future of digital technology in education systems in the aftermath of COVID-19. However, many of these discussions are inadequately considering the impact of digital technology on education and, in particular, on the education of girls and young women. This is an important issue on which governments, Big Tech companies and civil society could work together, to take action to close the gender gaps in digital access and digital skills and work to create safe and equitable spaces for online learning. This requires targeted action to best leverage technology with a view to ensuring equity and empowering a generation of girls and young women whose education has been disrupted by COVID-19.
14:00-14:10 CEST Opening
Welcome to Building The Bandwidth!
14:10-14:20 CEST Keynote
Mind The Gap
Gender Disparities in Digital Access, Skills & Online Learning
14:20-15:00 CEST Panel
Power Up: Leveraging Technology To Advance Girls’ Knowledge, Skills And Transition To The World Of Work
15:00-15:58 CEST Roundtable
Wiring The Network
Key Actions to Create Equal, Safe & Empowering Online Spaces for Girls
15:58-16:00 CEST Closing
Thank you for attending Building The Bandwidth!
Closing the gender gaps in girls’ access to online education and in digital skills.
Ensuring safe, inclusive and gender-responsive online learning spaces.
Leveraging the technology to advance education and gender equality, with a focus on the most marginalised.
Ms Doreen Bogdan-Martin
Director, Telecommunication Development Bureau at the International Telecommunication Union
Prof. Pauline Rose
Director, Research for Equitable Access and Learning Centre, University of Cambridge