1) The gender technology gap has to end
(GS 1, 3- Social empowerment , Sci & Tech)
Context: There needs to be a feminist approach to technology to solve the social impacts of the South Asian COVID-19 crisis.
What’s the issue?
- Aftermath of the pandemic the inequalities have again surfaced, one aspect stands out: access to technology has never been so crucial to ensuring public health and safety.
- Around the world, information and access to health care have largely moved online, and those left behind face grave disadvantages.
Limited or no access
- According to Global System for Mobile Communications (GSMA) estimates, over 390 million women in low- and middle-income countries do not have Internet access.
- South Asia has more than half of these women with only 65% owning a mobile phone.
- In India, only 14.9% of women were reported to be using the Internet.
- Recent local data revealed that nearly 17% more men than women have been vaccinated.
- While improving awareness of how to access vaccination and help are crucial to protecting women, the mindset around digital technology and device ownership must also change.
- In part, this is due to deeply held cultural beliefs: it is often believed that women’s access to technology will motivate them to challenge patriarchal societies.
- There is also a belief that women need to be protected, and that online content can be dangerous for women/expose them to risks.
- These gaps prevent women and LGBTQIA+ people from accessing critical services.
- In India, Bangladesh and Pakistan, for example, fewer women than men received the necessary information to survive COVID-19.
- Feminism, means being inclusive, democratic, transparent, egalitarian, and offering opportunities for all. We can call it equality through innovation.
- Feminist technology (sometimes called “femtech”) is an approach to technology and innovation that is inclusive, informed and responsive to the entire community with all its diversity.
Steps to an equitable future
- As part of the Generation Equality Forum in UN, the goal is to double the number of women and girls working in technology and innovation.
- By 2026, the aim is to reduce the gender digital divide and ensure universal digital literacy, while investing in feminist technology and innovation to support women’s leadership as innovators.
- Through digital empowerment programmes and partnerships such as EQUALS and International Girls in ICT Day led by UN Women and the International Telecommunication Union, we hope that more girls will choose STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics).
Hardly a neutral world
- The supposedly neutral world of technology is full of examples of this: from video games to virtual assistants to the increasingly large dimensions of “handheld” smartphones, technology is not always made with everyone in mind.
- Policy cannot solve this on its own, but the private sector can. Companies should not look at gender-equal technology solely from an altruistic perspective, but from a pragmatic one.\
- Women and girls are the largest consumer groups left out of technology and could be major profit drivers.
- Other than apps, built-in features on mobile phones such as an emergency button connecting women to law enforcement if they face unwanted street harassment should also be considered.
- We now have the opportunity to shape our future in a way that is more equal, diverse, and sustainable in the world of technology in the aftermath of the medical and socioeconomic devastation in the past year.
- Now is the time to act. The right thing to do is also the smart thing to do. Bringing an end to the gender technology gap will save lives and make livelihoods more secure. As a result, the next pandemic, once it arrives, may not be nearly as destructive. It can only lead to a better community and a better world for us all.
24th June, Mains Expected Questions
Q) The growth of science and technology has opened new avenues for some sections of the society, but has also created few gaps like major section of the women have been left out. Do you agree. Explain.
- Source: https://www.thehindu.com