Equinix pledges $100,000 to help combat the digital divide’s gender gap

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Equinix pledges $100,000 to help combat the digital divide’s gender gap

Equinix recently committed to giving an additional $100,000 to World Pulse to help close the digital divide’s gender disparity. World Pulse, a woman-powered global social network, helps bridge the gender gap in technology and digital information access.

The progress toward closing the gender gap in mobile internet use within low and middle-income countries (LMICs) has stalled in recent years.

According to the GSMA Mobile Gender Gap Report, the gender gap in mobile internet use decreased from 25% to 15% between 2017 and 2020. However, 2021 data showed a reversal of this trend with a gender gap of 16%.

Further, 18% fewer women own smartphones compared to men. This could limit their access to critical information and vital services, such as healthcare and education.

The pandemic and overlapping economic and societal effects have significantly affected gender equality progress. Digital inclusion is stalling or declining in regions with existing gender gaps, such as South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, leading to further disparities for women and girls.

Why is accessing the mobile internet vital?

Mobile phone internet is more accessible for women and marginalized populations because it’s often more affordable and portable. Mobile internet helps expand access to a larger community and education and employment opportunities. Additionally, it gives them access to vital services such as healthcare and banking.

That said, many barriers currently prevent women and girls worldwide from participating online. These issues include unequal access to education and digital skills, societal expectations that discourage them from participating in online platforms and increasing incidents of online violence that cause concerns around privacy, safety and security.

According to Jensine Larsen, the CEO of World Pulse, digital inclusion requires more than just access to technology and the internet.

“It requires meaningful connectivity,” notes Larsen. “Meaningful connectivity includes regular, affordable internet access that enables people to engage fully and freely online. And creating safe online spaces for women’s voices and civic participation like World Pulse is another essential piece of the solution.”

How to bridge the digital divide

Creative solutions must be implemented with guidance from women and girls to overcome the barriers they face. This can be done by creating safe online spaces for their voices and enabling them to be local digital trainers.

“Our World Pulse Digital Ambassador program is reaching into global communities historically left out of the digital world and providing training to help members connect and create change together,” explains Larsen.

The organization says this method amplifies the voices of up-and-coming female leaders and utilizes a structured monitoring, evaluation, and learning process to investigate how digital empowerment motivates members to take action toward personal and social change.

The World Pulse Digital Ambassadors focus on topics that directly impact them and their communities, such as human rights, educational equality, gender-based violence and peace and security.

“I was amazed by the stories of women using a social network to achieve transformation and was inspired by the power of the internet,” says Sujata Narayan, the director of community impact at the Equinix Foundation. “It often is used for distraction or even destruction, but here the internet was being used in a way that empowered and uplifted women in their community.”

How organizations can help

The ITU (International Telecommunications Union) has estimated that nearly 428 billion is required to achieve universal access to the internet by 2030 globally. This is where money from organizations like Equinix can help.

“To date, we’ve granted about $250,000,” says Narayan. “In 2021, we decided to fund a program called Her Digital Leadership Alliance, which brings together private business, civil society and governments, all with this intention to advance gender digital equity.”

The program’s goal is to provide digital empowerment training to approximately 20,000 women who can in turn teach millions, Narayan continues.

World Pulse says that companies such as Equinix and private philanthropy can support innovations for inclusion that governments and institutions have not yet widely adopted, particularly solutions coming from the most excluded women and populations. Ultimately, when women and girls are included in the digital economy, it can accelerate progress for everyone.

As Larsen says, “Digital inclusion is not only good policy — it’s good economics. A digital economy without the full participation of women cannot reach its full potential.”

“By providing access to technology and the internet, including training and support in digital skills, as well as creating safe online spaces, meaningful, sustainable progress can be made towards digital inclusion. I believe if you design technology for women to thrive, they will encode new values, norms and solutions that will benefit us all.”

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