Technology and the internet can be a great enabler for girls but a lack of opportunities, skills and a fear of discrimination prevent many from using and creating digital tools and online content. To achieve gender equality, girls and young women need equal access to technology, digital training and to be safe online. Across the globe girls and women often have less access to technology and the internet compared to boys and men. Particularly in developing countries, girls and women struggle to afford technology and internet access. Besides, stereotypes around technology being ‘for boys’ and fear of being discriminated against stop girls from using digital tools.
Technology can also be a powerful tool for girls to become activists and lead change on issues that affect them. Social media platforms, for instance, allow activists to reach a wide audience and organize action towards common causes. The education sector across the globe is transforming because of new technological breakthroughs. This resulted in affecting and impacting the way things are presented and taught in the classroom to the students. Today, it has become a vital ingredient to learning at all educational levels. However, a gap in access to the internet is causing dramatic disparities in educational success.
Technology, like capitalism, was meant to foster development and improve the lives of ordinary citizens. While capitalism has succeeded in creating immense wealth for the elite, it has left the majority in financial and social limbo, generating huge disparities across the globe. Technology appears to be doing the same. It has certainly changed the world, but it also primarily serves a wealthy market before all others, leaving the rest of society looking on at unattainable objects with desire.
Barriers contributing to the gap on the continent include unaffordable access, threats to access and use, low digital literacy and confidence, and the lack of relevant content. While many experts seem to be “lost in translation” about the real impact of technology on development in countries like Pakistan most digital experts and educationists, acknowledges that technology remains a vital tool for the development of education, she insists that digital information can only thrive and be useful to children if it exists within a conducive environment.
As far as society and nation-building is concerned, literacy and education are powerful force multipliers that enhance the success of all other developmental efforts. Despite initiatives like Digital Pakistan, the digital chasm separating the privileged from the deprived remains the same and its effects have intensified amidst COVID19. According to GSMA, an organization representing the interests of mobile operators worldwide Pakistan has the highest male-female gap in terms of mobile phone set ownership among 15 countries, The ‘Mobile Gender Gap Report 2020’ is based on the annual GSMA Intelligence Consumer Survey of 2019 belonging to 15 low- and middle-income countries (LMICs).
The Mobile Gender Gap Report 2020 highlights that Pakistan has the highest gender gap of 38pc over mobile phone ownership as 81pc Pakistani males owned mobile sets compared to 50pc females.
Similarly, the gap over mobile internet usage was 49pc, with 37pc Pakistani males against 19pc females having access to mobile internet.
According to Article 25A of the Constitution of Pakistan “The State shall provide free and compulsory education to all children of the age of five to sixteen years in such manner as may be determined by law”. The term ‘compulsory education’ herein, casts an obligation upon the Government and local authorities to facilitate and ensure the completion of elementary education by all children of the corresponding age group. Therefore, the denial of access to internet hampers the access to education and affects the dignity and freedom of children to study.
Economic reform policies have always leaned towards hyper-digitalization. For a long time, they have discussed how to innovate working and studying with at-home technologies. However, the implementation of these policies has not addressed the educational inequalities that have today emerged as a crisis .
The scope of e-learning is enormous and can help realize the potential of each student. There lie both opportunities and challenges for the government and the private sector. The aim should be to ensure equal and adequate access to such platforms as the country continues to globalize and catch up with advanced economies. If the Pakistani education system aims to transit to online learning in the future, it must emphasize policies that bridge the digital divide and move the country closer to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.
Covid-19 has highlighted a deep cesspool of digital exclusion, the challenge ahead is steep but worth the effort. Be a part of the solution. From supporting research to better understand the root causes of the digital gender gap, to designing and implementing innovative programs that promote women’s entrepreneurship and make the internet more relevant for them, let’s work together to bridge the digital gender gap. At no time in history has it been more important.