The following are the outputs of the captioning taken during an IGF intervention. Although it is largely accurate, in some cases it may be incomplete or inaccurate due to inaudible passages or transcription errors. It is posted as an aid, but should not be treated as an authoritative record.
>> CLAUDIA SIBTHORPE: Hello, everybody. Thank you for patience. We're having a few technical glitches, but I think we're there now. My name is Claire and I had the Connected Woman Program at GSMA accelerating digital and financial inclusion for women. We have some slides, and I don't know if it's possible for the slides to be shared?
If not, no problem. This is called An Internet that Empowers All women. There we go. There is the slide. This is a very important question. We live in a world increasingly connected and have been working for many years to try to address the digital gender gap but it still persists and is still very much there. In this session we partnered with UNCDF to bring together a group of panelists to explore this issue and see what we can do to try to move the needle and reduce the digital gender gap.
Before we get into the discussion, I'm going to set the context, and I'm going to talk about mobile Internet specifically since it's the primary and often way that most people access the Internet, especially women, and maybe we can go to the next slide.
So, we at the GSMA have been measuring the gender gap in mobile ownership in mobile Internet for number of years, and this slide shows the gender gap in mobile Internet since 2017, so you can see that in 2017, the women were 25% less likely than men to use the Internet. And while this gender gap is substantial, can you see that it's been reducing, so as you can see it went from 25% in 2017 and reduced to 15% in 2020. So, we saw some good progress.
However, if you now look at last year's data, the progress is not quite as rosy, so we saw it was alarming that the progress has stalled and in some countries it's even reversed.
So now across low and middle‑income countries women are 16% less likely to use mobile Internet than men, and that translates into 264‑million fewer women than men using the mobile Internet.
And it's not that women are going online. What we're seeing is that women's uptick of Internet continues to increase, but the rate of adoption has slowed and stalled.
When we look at this in a regional context, we see also that the gaps vary and widen quite substantially in some regions. Here in Sub‑Saharan Africa, women are 37% res likely to use mobile Internet and overall, across low and middle-income country, the gap is reduced in Sub‑Saharan Africa and that is relatively unchanged since 2017 and hasn't reduced. This shows we have work to do and we need more focus on the issue. In research and work we look at the barrier, why women going online, why is this going on less than men and why is there a gender gap? Among mobile users aware of mobile Internet, the topic barriers to mobile Internet adoption are literacy and digital skills, affordability, particularly handset affordability and safety and security concerns.
So, I think this data shows there is a real clear call to action, more attention and investment to ensure that we continue to reduce the gender gap so that line continues to go down and it is not further stalled or reversed. I think women have been disproportionately negatively impacted by crises like COVID and things that have negatively impacted them financially and in other ways.
So, we need to think about how we can move this needle, and so now I'm delighted to say that we have a group of panelists who are doing exactly that, working very hard to try to address the digital gender gap, and they're going to share with us some of their experiences and insights on this topic so I'm going to introduce the panelists. If I can invite you all on stage, first we have Solomon Tadesse. Online we have Agnes Kinga from Safaricom terminal business lead and also online is Vidhya Y co‑founder and trustee of Vision Empower. In the room we have Onica Makwakwa from the Global and Digital Inclusion Partnership. If you want to join us, Onica. and Ezana Raswork CEO and Founder of Africa 118 here in Ethiopia.
So, I think I shared very briefly the data, and I think it shows that we have more that we need to do. This is an issue that's not going away, and in fact if we don't do something more, it could get worse. I'm going to start with you here since we're in Ethiopia, I'm going to start with you Solomon. What do you think from your perspective are the main challenges at that women face in accessing Internet in Ethiopia, and also maybe a little bit about what you're doing to bridge the digital gender divide at DOT.
>> SOLOMON TADESSE: Thank you. I'm not going to tell you the statistics. I just want to describe our own experience on the ground. Digital Opportunity Trust, one of the implementation activities, is providing digital literacy for women, specifically women, women from urban, women from rural areas, and women in all age groups, including adult women.
When it comes to the barriers in terms of Internet access, so currently it's somehow improving. Access to connection or access to Internet service is still a challenge for women. This is mainly exacerbated because of the challenge they have in terms of access to device. Women, unlike the boys or men, the access to device remains a challenge to them, specifically women in rural areas, the accessibility of smart phone or feature phone is lower. And even the skill gap on how to use it and meaningfully use the Internet is also another challenge. Even those who have access, sometimes they face a kind of cyberbullying. For example, there are woman that I know from our program, that we have been providing ICT skill training for women in garment sector, and she told me from her experience that she was trying to promote her garment products through social media, and there were a lot of discouraging comments that were coming, though she's strong enough to resist and continue doing her own job.
So, in short, the barriers are access to the connectivity, access to device, and the skill gaps. These are the main challenges that women are facing.
Those working on digital skill training, and you know interestingly, our training programs are very much integrated with life‑skill trainings, so that, you know, we're doing minds is set change so they develop I can do it, I can use, this is simple, so they can break the cultural barriers as well.
So far, we have been able to reach close to 7,000 women. This doesn't include the women in school, but out of school or adult women, and most of them are women in business. We provided them basic ICT skills, including how they can use ICT to improve their business. These are just in short, I think, for the sake or benefit of time, in summary the challenges are access to device, connectivity, skill gap, and we're addressing ‑‑ we're trying to address access to device by using and collaborating with other organizations like for example youth centers and schools, so that you know unlike boys, they don't have ‑‑ they don't go to, for example, restaurants or hotels to get WiFi access. So, we're trying to bridge such challenge by using available resource within the community and collaborating with others. I'm sorry if I went too much time.
>> CLAUDIA SIBTHORPE: That's great. Thank you so much. That's really good to hear your experiences. DOT has been working in this area for quite a while. I was wondering if you could share, if you had sort of the top two or three key learnings, top two or three key insights or learnings that you would share with the group from all of your work?
>> SOLOMON TADESSE: Thank you. He as I said earlier, we have those women with the devices at home are not using it because they don't have the skill and the training, and from the cultural barrier that these technology things are meant for men, they're more reluctant to use it, even those who have access.
The first thing we did is, we did ‑‑ we integrated the digital literacy skill training with life skills so that they develop the ability or attitude or mindset that they can do, they can use, they can meaningfully use it, even in our training when we provide the ICT skill training, we help them to unpack the computers and to see what's inside so they will no more fear it. You know, fear is also one of the challenges, you see. That's one area that whenever we design, especially a digital literacy program for women, adult women, or maybe lower primary level skill or literacy levels, we should encourage them so that, you know, they can consider it simple and usable and meaningfully use it.
The other thing in terms of access, laptop or access to desktop or even smart phone is very difficult for women, most women, even because of the cultural barriers. If there is a smart phone, it is the boys in the house or the man who is ‑‑ who has the privilege to use it. So, in order to support them to access such devices, we can use or collaborate with organizations like schools, youth centers, so that we can easily reach as many women as possible. And we are also in our curriculum trying to show them how the computer is operating like a mobile phone, you know. We show them using what they know, and even with a feature phone we can tell them and explain to them how the computer is working so that, you know, they can develop the confidence.
The other thing in terms of financial literacy, most women whom we are providing training, we integrate the ICT skill training with the financial literacy so that, you know, they develop the confidence to use mobile money, the confidence to use their financial transaction using Excel, for example, to record so that, you know, it becomes meaningful for them to learn the ICT skills and they know how it is useful to improve their business. So, the coordination and collaboration or cooperation, for example, DOT is a member of the Women and Digital Finance Hub and we're proud of being a member because there are a lot of resources from different organizations that we can leverage to promote the digital literacy, so these are the lessons that we had from our experience that is useful for us to consider.
>> CLAUDIA SIBTHORPE: Thank you very much for sharing that. Agnes was going to speak but is having technical problems joining online. It looks like she's not online, so we'll move to hopefully Vidhya is online.
>> VIDHYA Y: Yes, I'm online.
>> CLAUDIA SIBTHORPE: Excellent. I hope you can hear. There are some problems with the microphones here. I think it's important not to talk about women as a homogeneous group so we know that the barriers and needs and experiences of women differ greatly. Maybe can you share a bit about key challenges to going online that women and girls with visual impairments face, perhaps?
>> VIDHYA Y: Yes. Thank you so much. Thank you to GSMA and UNCDF for having me here.
Now, talking about the challenges that women face, we're talking about challenges of women, so all of these challenges are there even for women with visual impairment but only magnified because of the visual impairment as well. There is always the double marginalization of being a woman and being visually impaired.
So, when you talk about Global South and specifically talking about Global South because 90% of the world's blind population lives in the Global South. So, in the Global South, from what I have seen, disability and poverty exist together. And first as we were talking already, there are no devices generally that help to you access the Internet, that's the main problem because of the affordability issue. And now that smart phones have become very cheap, people can afford it easily, some of the smart phones, but for people with visual impairments, that's not the case because ‑‑ did you say something?
>> CLAUDIA SIBTHORPE: I'm sorry. We lost you briefly but you're back, so please continue.
>> VIDHYA Y: For people that can see, even if they can afford some of the budget phones. But for a lot of people with visual impairment, either hardware doesn't support or something in the software doesn't support. Basically, there are a lot of accessibility issues that if you purchase a budget phone.
Secondly, even if you have devices, training is not available and you cannot just go on to YouTube and watch some video and learn how to use a phone if you're visually impaired. Because terms like click on this or scroll down, all of these are not even applicable because we don't use mouse in the first place, and we use screen readers to access everything on the Internet or on the computer, and it needs specialized training, which is not easily available.
And even if people who know all of these phones to access the Internet, there are challenges because there are accessibility issues and on so many of the websites. For example, to register for events like this, there are some challenges that are there and I need to take help from a person who can see, and only then I will be able to access the Internet. So even if you know how to use the technology, this is one of the issues.
In countries like India, there are so many different languages and primarily the content is available in English. With women, a lot of women with visual impairment lead a secluded life at homes and not afforded opportunities available for the others. In my case I am visually impaired and from a village, so used computer and smart phone only from grade level, so it was available for my generation at least much earlier, but I did not know.
And now when you talk about Facebook or some other social media platforms, a lot of pictures don't even have ALT Text, now if I am a girl with visual impairment and trying to use Facebook, so if someone sends me a picture, then I don't know what is in that picture so I'm very clueless and I feel then it is very unsafe. Even if I want to accept somebody's friend request, I cannot access any of the visual information, and I can see only some of the text‑based messages ‑‑ text‑based information available on profiles. All of these make Internet very unsafe for at least ‑‑ at least it makes it feel that it's not safe because of all of these issues. This is what I have seen from observing the community and from my own experiences.
>> CLAUDIA SIBTHORPE: Thank you for sharing. It's really important to highlight that there are lots of different challenges and different groups of people experiencing very different ways. These are very real and critical challenges that you're facing. What have you been doing to kind of address them, and what have you learned from your experiences in working to try to address some of these challenges?
>> VIDHYA Y: So, for people with visual impairment, especially Internet is a bull because when I started using Internet when I started using computers, the world of opportunities opened up for me. So, for the first time when I used email, that was the first time ever I sent a return communication to someone who could see, and imagine it was only audio and I could never send a message on my own, which a person who can see can understand. So, it's really ‑‑ I cannot even express the joy I felt when I started using email for the first time.
And I could read any book of my choice, and I could browse any information, and I could read news. Until I started using technology, I had to depend on somebody to read. And if nobody is there, then I just have to skip that information, and I always felt that I'm too dependent on people. So, this is the case for so many of people with visual impairment, and I feel that for women especially, it will open up if they know how to use Internet and if they can have access, it will open up social interactions like never before because women, already women with visual impairment stay home and have safety concerns and they're not able to freely access the world of opportunities that are already available. So, what I have been doing is I have been making school education accessible, especially STEM‑related subjects for children with visual impairment because millions of children drop the subjects because it's fully visual and drop at the school level even before they reach high school.
So, we have a lot of initiatives that we have, especially we make the content accessible because there are a lot of pictures that we use, 3D modules and diagrams and all of that. We have teacher trainings, we have programs and computational thinking and all of these initiatives, and along with that we really focus on digital literacy. Now what happened is during the pandemic, we saw that a lot of regular schools seamlessly shifted on to digital platforms without any hurdle, but as I mentioned the challenges there for teachers and students with visual impairment, they were not able to do that and literally all schools stopped. This is the time when I personally made audio tutorials for teachers in the pandemic and also a lot of teachers are using it, and they've been translated to different languages and majority of the teachers who are using this are women.
Now, I really didn't think I would find innovative use cases for some of the tutorials that I used so there is one app called Be My Eyes, where if you are visually impaired you can call anybody on that app and someone will pick up your call and help you with whatever assistance that you need remotely. So, some of the women have been using this platform actually to match the clothes with bangles or some other accessories that they wear. I mean I never thought of this use case when I made these tutorials.
And when we talk about kids, it's really important that girls really learn technology right from the beginning so that they don't have to struggle when they become adults, so we are taking up digital literacy, we have designed a curriculum specifically for children and we are training children right from grade 1 on all of the computer and phone and everything that may be useful. I feel that when they grow up, they will be able to use it just like any other person who can see.
So, some of the other things that I can think of is, we really need to like forums like this are there, so we need to educate some of the stakeholders that are ‑‑ that make policies on these issues and say that there exist these groups, and even these groups of people like women with visual impairment needs to be considered while making decisions. And we will really need a lot of people to go to villages and some of the places where visually impaired women live and educate them that these tools and technologies are there, and at least this is the way that you get access to some of the resources that are there.
>> CLAUDIA SIBTHORPE: Sounds like you're making a huge impact. Very inspirational. Thank you very much. I believe, Agnes was able to join. Agnes, are you online now?
>> AGNES KINGA: Yes, I'm now online.
>> CLAUDIA SIBTHORPE: Great. I'm sorry for the technical difficulties but glad you were able to join. Safaricom has been a leader in working to address the mobile gender gap, and you guys have been doing amazing stuff and you've seen really good outcomes. So, it would be good to hear from your perspective and on the ground what do you see as key barriers that need to be addressed?
>> AGNES KINGA: Thank you. I think the biggest barriers are affordability because we know devices are especially expensive, if you consider the income of the target audience. So, affordability is one of the biggest challenges. The other one is accessible, so finding outlets or channels that can actually reach to the granular levels or different areas with the right devices, that has also been an issue.
The third issue that I think we highlighted is around digital literacy. Even when one acquires a device, that they know how to make the best use of it. I would say those are the three main barriers highlighting the women today.
>> CLAUDIA SIBTHORPE: Great. Really good to hear your perspective. It would be good to hear from you and you've really been tackling this at scale, and I was wondering, you know, how have up gone to kind of really go to scale to really move that needle? And the same question as the others, what are the kind of main lessons that you learned from the efforts that would be useful to share?
>> AGNES KINGA: Some of the main efforts that we have taken to move the needle, I think the main ones have been addressing the biggest barriers, which is affordability. If you look at some of the programs that Safaricom has done, it includes device financing, and these are pay‑per‑use model whereby it allows women or anyone in general to just pay a small deposit and pay as low as 20 cents or $1 a day and to get the device. What that has done is actually lowered the barrier of acquisition for smart phones in the country, and I think after to date we have gotten to sell around 1 million devices using the pay‑per‑use model.
Another is around the discounts and subsidies targeted to some general areas, and especially in the rural areas majority of women do not own smart devices, so also some cities and discount vs. come a long way in driving affordability. It's not a sustainable business model to discount in perpetuity so one of the best models is slowly transitioning to a device financing model whereby it makes it more affordable for the women to actually acquire the devices.
I think one of the insights we actually saw, and especially in Africa is that most households, the fastest smart phone is actually acquired for the father, and usually the women or the mother takes a backseat. But with this kind of model of pay‑per‑use, we're seeing great acquisition on smart phones among women, and actually for the last year, for the last we did it was for indexing, indexing on devices by women, and actually at 54% to 46% to men, so some of those initiatives really helped to address affordability.
Another key one is also about accessibility because in as much as you have well‑priced devices, if you don't have the right channels to actually Ben trait into the interior where most of the women are not digitized, then you will not ‑‑ you will not be able to succeed. So also building on to consumer channels and making sure that we have partnerships with outlets that are based even in the deep rural areas whereby you get a lot of women and a lot of digital devices that have been great.
A third one I might say is also a very important thing you've done is actually doing campaigns targeted toward women and using the face of the campaign, the people in the advertisement are real‑life women actually upgraded from using feature phones to smart phone because also we see that when people see themselves, and see how someone's life like endorsement of how someone's life improved by being digital literate, it was also a very powerful way of getting that.
Also, relevant campaigns targeted toward women, showcasing women in their spaces, real‑life women and showcases in the right language and especially use of vernacular languages mainly used in areas where people are not very digitized, have been very successful.
I think the last pillar is around digital literacy, so we have done a lot of work, especially with Google on creating how‑to guide kids and GSMA we have done some great work on how to create tools and easy ways to ‑‑ for someone to actually get to make much more use of their device.
Finally, because we're, I can't go without mentioning data parts or data bundles because that is what enabled women to actually get connected to the Internet, and so I think I would summarize that by saying device financing, the right campaigns and right channels and route to consumer and also having affordable resources and data bundles that enable the usage of their devices.
>> CLAIR: Thank you so much, you're taking a holistic approach to tackling many and having success. Thanks for sharing. I'm going to turn to you now Onica, you've been working for many years in the digital gender divide and I mentioned in the beginning that Sub‑Saharan African women are 37% less likely than men to use the Internet and that really hasn't changed over the last number of years. So why ‑‑ you know, why is there such an important issue and why should we really be caring so much about it?
>> ONICA MAKWAKWA: Thank you. Thanks so much for this opportunity and I have to say that having worked in digital inclusion for as long as I have with inclusion of being inclusive, I want to congratulate you on video on this because I don't know about any of you but we've been talking about digital inclusion for so long be but never really having people challenged with visual impairment on digital platforms speak for themselves, and this is a great example of nothing about us without us by having her come and enlighten us as well in terms of the work that you are doing. Thank you. I want to just ‑‑ I was just really touched by that and it's just so strange that in so long of us talking about this digital inclusion, we've never really seen it represented this way.
In terms of women and why it's really important for them to be online, I think it's really important for us to understand that this exclusion of women on digital is actually a symptom of what exists in our society and what we need to fix in our society in general. It's not unique to digital, it's a presentation of the gender inequalities that exist within our society, and manifest themselves in the digital space.
The same kind of rationale why we believe that girls must go to school is exactly the same reasons why they must also be on digital ‑‑ given digital access and included in digital.
Most of the work we've seen is that when women are able to be empowered and have access to digital, they have an opportunity to really transform their lives, but you know digital inequality that exists right now puts them at disadvantage, when we look at how menus digital access vis‑a‑vis how women use digital access, we still find a huge difference of women are less like, those who are online, are still less likely to use access in a way that is empowering and potentially could contribute toward improving their social economic standing, less likely to look for a job online, less likely to run a business online, compared to the men who were also online. So, we have to fix it because what it means also is that especially in this region where everyone is talking about digital economy, and I don't think there is a session here this week alone that has not touched on digital economy. It means that we are once again creating economies that are exclusive of women. We cannot afford to do that. The most recent research that our team has worked on was the cost of exclusion. To really bring it home that there is a real cost to excluding women from digital, and I think that cost on the last research was about losing about a trillion U.S. dollars in our economies by not including women in digital development.
And when you think about it in terms of just, you know, this divide that currently exists, it's not just only affecting this generation quite frankly. It also has an impact, the exclusion has an impact on the next generation because just to pick up a little bit on what my fellow panelist mentioned around the experience of women online, young girls are also observing how women of this generation are experiencing violence online, and they are learning that being online is not a good thing and opting ‑‑ in the same way women in our generation are beginning to self‑sensor themselves from engaging online, and we're also creating a potential challenge with the next generation of young girls who are not going to be able to see the full value of actually being online. So, it's really important that we fix this divide, but it's also understanding that it's not isolated to online. All the SDGs are important around gender equality, but more so on digital so we don't leave women behind again.
>> Claire: We're hearing affordability and making sure relevant and accessibility but as safety and security concerns are stopping people from going online, so I would, since you mentioned especially at the end there, what do you think we can do about that issue and you know comments on, yeah, that issue and how we can address it?
>> AGNES KINGA: Absolutely. I think it's really important for us to acknowledging that, yes, you know, affordability is a big issue for why women are not online. There is a skills issue, but as there is an environmental issue online which is the violence against women that exists online that contributes towards the digital divide. We have to be intentional. These things, because violence against women exists in society in general, it's not going to fix itself because we gave women computers and skills to be online. We have to be intentional about ending this, and that really means that we need to look at policies around safety, we need to look at different ‑‑ it's multisectoral as well, and there is a responsibility that platforms must assume in making sure that we've got the safety available online. There is a role for civic tech and Civil Society organizations around educating women on how to protect themselves online, the same way they do offline, and there is a rule for government as well. You know, it's really interesting that there is this huge movement of updating cybercrime laws in most countries. I don't know which country is not doing that right now, but most of our countries are doing that.
What we are finding is that there is no enforcement implementation of this. There is the adoption of new wonderful laws that have a bench point, but when the bench point happens if a very public space no one asks, and we still wait for the victim to be burdened with the responsibility of reporting again. When we've got laws that we've adopted from somewhere that are very clear about what must actually happen when these instances occur, so we have to make sure that the Internet is safe for everyone. It starts with all of us have equality and right to safety in most of our Constitutions. So we need to start it from there, including the new instruments, the legal frameworks that we've adopted in most countries, especially here in Africa we're really good at adopting these new frameworks, right, but the implementation has been really, really lacking and online violence against women takes many forms now, beyond just dragging, dragging meaning trolling of women online, and beyond just targeting female politicians and generalists in particular, I think those two group of women are the ones who probably experience the most abuse.
But it actually goes to things such as hijacking women’s' accounts online and hijacking their platforms and Zoom meetings as we experienced yesterday with one of the sessions here. So, the same way they're vigilant around antiterrorism on Cyberspaces, we want government to have the same fever to actually deal and address with this kind of terrorist attack on women online both in group meetings as well as individually when they're expressing themselves. There is no reason why a woman who is trying to sell something online should be faced with negative comments that discourage her from doing that while we are working on goals around financial inclusion because it just doesn't make sense, you know. So, I think that we need to educate ourselves a lot more about the experience of women, and it starts with believing them. Right. I think a lot of our challenges that we don't believe women when they tell us these things are happening to them, so we need to really start by believing them, educating ourselves, and then beginning to look at action and interventions that can be taken. Each has a role. Platforms have a huge responsibility, Civil Society as well, but governments certainly.
>> CLAIRE: Thanks, that's a powerful call to action, and I agree that it's an initiative that we really need to tackle. We'll move to Ezana. So, Africa 118 is working with entrepreneurs here in Ethiopia and trying to get them online. So, what are the challenges that you've been trying to address and how, and I don't know if you have any also response to the comments from Onica about the experiences?
>> EZANA Raswork: When you compare with mobile penetration, 10% of women SMEs or entrepreneurs have an online presence, so I think part of the conversation was around infrastructure, part of it on having affordable devices, but you also need to have local content and so when we did our research around, you know, why are they not online. Essentially, there were three basic reasons. The first one is around awareness, so if I have a leather shop or I'm in the fashion business or I'm in the coffee export business, are there people looking for my services today? And the answer, spoiler alert, the answer is, yes. There are plenty of people looking for your services. Secondly, if I'm aware, how do I go about being online?
And so, the expertise is missing, so what do I ‑‑ what is my first step? And then the third one is around affordability, so we found that the price point is around $100, $100 or $200, more than that becomes difficult for SMEs and we did design thinking with the GSMA so we're part of the GSMA Innovation Fund and came up with different solutions to try to tackle each of the three issues. Part of it around the skills development, and that's been around the theme and colleagues at DOT are doing that. If I'm a tour operator, how should I be present and what should I be doing. We have a partnership with Google as well and GSMA has a mobile toolkit and packaging for the entrepreneurs and what does she need to be able to professionally be online. Secondly, we developed what we call a digital starter pack, so professional online presence priced affordably, around 5,000 and we've seen it's been quite impactful, did an impact survey and we found that we supported around 1800 SMEs, 1200 women, 70% or so, 90% had presence before the program. 80% indicated a significant impact, and also claimed 78% my life improved and part of it might come back to what you were saying earlier around confidence, so part of having presence means my business exists, and I can ‑‑ it's almost like having a business and it exists and I can point people there. So, we did find that what we believe is one solution to help address this gap and our belief is that this can be something that can be scaled to other entrepreneurs and markets as well.
>> CLAIRE: I'm going to ask you the question I asked a couple of others, too. What are the main learnings you've had from your experience that is worth sharing with others who are trying to do something similar and get women online, too?
>> EZANA Raswork: The first is basically a target or measuring. Our intervention is designed that at least 50% of the participants who are women, women‑led organizations, and what we found is initially in Hupi it is difficult because less than 30% of businesses are owned by women so we had to be very intentional around how to find them, and it's something that we measured every month. So we had, we started below, and ended up at 67%, so something very simple, probably very obvious, but making sure that we have a KPI and that we're measuring it.
The second thing and project the most useful is that we went with the ‑‑ we found very strong women‑led SME organizations and partnered with them, and so we found that they have the relationship, they know how to work with their members, the trust is there, and a lot of things in terms of when does the training happen, what's the format, the time, all of those things had already been solved by the SME organizations themselves, so what we had to do was basically adapt our training to what they found, and we found that there the impact was much higher.
Then the last thing is as we observed, we found sessions led by women trainers where the participant it's were women and case studies where also women were the ones with the highest impact, so basically replicated that as much as we could across it and I think that's sort of the things that we found were effective for our intervention.
>> CLAIRE: I want to make sure there is time for questions online and in the room. One final reflection, one sentence, what would be the most impactful action we could take to kind of get women online and ensure they're empowered online? Maybe I'll start with the online, Vidhya, do you want to go first if you have one, what would you say is the most impactful thing that we could do, Vidhya?
>> VIDHYA Y: Yeah. I feel that we need to include women in the Internet ecosystem right from the beginning because only then they can choose what they want instead of someone having to choose what they want. We should also include people with people from the marginalized groups and not only privileged women. I think when we do that, then women will be empowered right from the beginning.
>> CLAIRE: Great. Thanks. Agnes, what do you think is the most impactful thing we can do.
>> AGNES KINGA: From my perspective, it's having the courage to actually take the commercial decisions that are required to drive women inclusion because of course we're living in a commercial world, and there will be some cost associated with it, so having this courage to actually make the big bets on women and also be able to finance and finance any initiatives that are actually leading to women acquiring devices, especially around the area of device affordability because that has actually been a barrier for a very long time.
And then I'll couple that by saying also having the right use case and the right content that is tailor‑made to the women will also take us very far on the inclusion journey.
>> CLAIRE: Down the panelists, what would you say is the most impactful thing that we can do?
>> SOLOMON TADESSE: Simply, accountability. Holding ourselves accountable for the outcome and having a goal and making sure we work through the goal and become creative in finding solutions, that's probably the one with the biggest impact from our perspective (Ezana.
>> Great. Onica?
>> ONICA MAKWAKWA: Along the same lines we mainstream gender in ICT policies and set very realistic tar gets so that we can utilize the resources we have such as universal service and access funds to actually advance our gender inclusion.
>> Claire: Great, Solomon?
>> SOLOMON TADESSE: Creating the momentum so that how we can reach as many women as possible. From that experience, we're using a user‑led model, where we create a use champion who will be providing the skilled training for women in their community, so that you know, we can sustain and create momentum to reach as many women as possible.
>> Claire: Thanks. I know I think we're getting to time, but I do want to give people a chance to speak. I know they've asked a couple of questions. We did start a few minutes late so I'm going to take the organizers and give us a couple of minutes extra at the end. We have lots of hands, I think we only have time for one online question and one in the room question and the panelists will be here, I'm sure. So, I think, yes. I don't know if there is one online as well? I think I saw her hand up first. We'll ask both questions and get the panelists to answer.
>> AUDIENCE MEMBER: Thank you very much. My name is Julia from ICT network where we work with policy and regulation. It's not really a question but it's a comment. I appreciate the discussion that we are having here today but I would like to request that we extend this conversation not just to women with visual disability but to disability as a whole. Even as we sit here today, if there was a woman here who was not able to hear, I can see the captions going on and off, then we actually going on and off then we exclude with the conversation. Let's include the women with a disability as a whole and join into this conversation. Thank you.
>> Claire: Great comment. Is there anything online?
>> There is nothing online but about I encourage those online to raise a hand if they have any questions.
>> Claire: We'll give one more question.
>> AUDIENCE MEMBER: Thank you to the very informative panel. I learned a lot. My name is Danielle Smriti at sociologist at Syracuse University at Syracuse New York, and our project focuses on training teachers in rural Ghana, and we will be exhibiting at the booth so please stop by to see a device that does provide connectivity. But my comment is that our research suggests that as important as it is to work on inclusivity and access for women, it is also important to include boys and men because what we find is that, boys and men who are equally as vulnerable not based on gender but based on other demographics, geography, social class, other life statuses, when they're excluded, women actually suffer. That's some of the things that we're hearing where online violence against women escalates within their households, their financing can be appropriated, they're subject to more domestic violence, to emotional violence, perpetrated by the men within their households, and women are silent about this. So, our approach has been to be inclusive of boys and men in our project, and I just wondered if you could comment on a more holistic approach to digital inclusivity?
>> Claire: Does anybody want to take that and then we'll have to close it up after that. Online panelists as well are welcome to join in.
>> Thank you, in any program we're running, it is men taking advantage than the women. I know bringing the agenda to mean that the inclusivity of women is also helping the family or helping the community so that, you know, the lost opportunity because of the exclusion can be minimized, but you know we're more focusing on women because they're more disadvantaged and they don't have access, even at home in a patriarchal community like Cuba, where if there is any device, it is the men who is using that device. Women are denied. Women are not encouraged to attend such kind of even when they are in school. There are not that much encouraged. We had a training program Girls can Code four or five years ago and we were trying to bring high school students to the center and teach them coding so that, you know, they can be motivated to continue or pursue higher education in technology or in STEM field.
Still even not many of the girls were able to pursue at this level with this kind of field or engineering or STEM fields, and still, you know there are a lot to do to include women than men. I understand that, yeah, men should be supportive and we have to work ‑‑ we have to intervene to aware them that if they are supporting them, it is supporting themselves. That's ‑‑ that's I think what I can add.
>> Claire: Unfortunately, I think we're out of time. I want to thank the panelists very, very much. Please we have no final comments but thank you so much to the panelists for sharing comments and expertise. I'm now going to introduce the Digital Finance Lead in Ethiopia for UNCDF who will make some closing remarks and we're delighted to partner with UNCDF on this and women's digital financial inclusion hub. Yes, please, welcome.
>> Good afternoon. I think we're running to the evening session, so just maybe to put into perspective, I think Onica earlier was mentioning we were talking about the symptoms and not root causes of different activities so whatever we're seeing usually involves around the economic activity of women, and if we're talking about access to device and others. If we go to the part of different countries, that's the scenario, so how on how we'll be able to enforce implementation of policies, that's an area that we need to work on. Indicators targeting women on different policies and strategies that we designed, that's something that we are lacking across countries, and we have as UNCDF, a tool that we use to measure inclusivity of digital economies where which is inclusive digital economy scorecard, that's what we are seeing in most countries that is a missing piece, so pushing engagement in these areas are important. Thank you very much, colleagues, excellencies, and friends. It has been a pleasure to work with you today and partners and USGMA to host this on a relevant topic for our country right now. I have enjoyed mostly the participation from all speakers and those vibrant female voices in person and online and listening to you has all inspired me greatly and we're excited about continuing to engage with all of you in this collaborative spirit.
At UNCDF, we remain committed to advancing women's economic empowerment by leveraging the potential of digital financial services and digital tools. We are working closely with both local and international stakeholders, private or government, because we are convinced that it's only together that we can close the digital and gender gap.
As you have heard from speakers, the women's digital financial inclusion, WDFI, advocacy is UNCDF flagship gender initiative in Ethiopia to promote inclusive policy change and support the creation of gender inclusive digital economies. We are working with diverse partners in Ethiopia to catalyze collective action and break down barriers when faced to become financially and digitally included.
This hub and the coalition in Ethiopia are a platform for change grounded on evidence, capacity building, practical implementation and most importantly, collaboration.
Similarly, our engagement with the digital financial service working group in Ethiopia provides in other countries particular to underserved community members through a policy advocacy and lobbying, networking, collaboration, learning, and capacity building, we can issue fair access and equal participation of all Ethiopian citizens in the digital economy.
Lastly, our strategic partnership with IBM and ministry of Innovation and Technology in Ethiopia and other similar ministries in other countries also exemplifying active efforts to ensure that all individuals have the skills they need to thrive in the digital economy with specific attentions given to the use and women.
Upskilling the digital capabilities of the world's workforce, particularly women, will further accelerate the furthest towards addressing the digital gender divide and support the government's vision. For example, in Ethiopia, we have the digital Ethiopia 2025 with ministry of innovations planning to reach 70% of Ethiopians to be digitally literate, where people like women have access to devices and Internet, and looking towards implementing the inclusive digital economy in the country.
To conclude, let me refer back to the beginning of our panel session question which is, can we make it happen, an Internet that empowers all women?
We know that closing the mobile gender gap among women and girls around the world is key to supporting our future generations, and we know that when women and girls can access, own, operate, and as said earlier by Mr. Solomon, meaningfully use technology, they can transform their lives, create opportunities for economic growth, and improve their well‑being and society at large. Educate a woman and educate a village, not just a family or single person. So as the country embark on the next stage of this exciting journey, the real case will be how effectively we can make this happen.
How we have women capability and help them take full advantage of opportunities that digital transformation can bring.
My call to action to you today is to encourage you to work together, one, and to work with us by joining the women's digital financial inclusion advocacy hub network in Ethiopia. Do not miss out opt opportunity to contribute to supporting the digital economy that elevates women's voices.
Lastly, let me share my deepest gratitude to GSMA, my colleagues from UNCDF, and the team behind setting up this event for bringing us all here together and enabling this discussion to accelerate inclusive change. Thank you very much.
>> Thank you. Thank you everybody for coming and joining. I believe we can make it happen. Let's continue the conversation.