In 1995, Nelson Mandela said that “In the twenty-first century, the capacity to communicate will almost certainly be a key human right. Eliminating the distinction between the information-rich and information-poor is also critical to eliminating economic and other inequalities…and to improve the life of all humanity.”
In sub-Saharan Africa women are 45% more likely to have no internet access compared to men. Women currently make-up over 50% of the labour force in the continent, and their higher rates of digital illiteracy means that many women will not benefit from the opportunities that the internet affords, which has severe implications not just for themselves, but for their families, communities and nation
Access to the right financial tools at critical moments can determine whether a poor household is able to capture an opportunity to move out of poverty or absorb a shock without being pushed deeper into debt. The global revolution in mobile technology along with rapid advances in digital payment systems is creating opportunities to connect poor households to affordable and reliable financial tools through mobile phones, and other digital platforms.
In recognition of the capacity of ICT to drive gender equality and development, the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals adopted in September 2015 require states to “enhance the use of enabling technology, in particular information and communications technology, to promote the empowerment of women”. This goal has subsequently been affirmed at the UN General Assembly World Summit on the Information Society and the 60th Session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women.
The advantages of literacy, combined with mobile connectivity, can empower women economically and socially. Access to market prices can help women with small businesses, and independent information can mean greater participation in governance. The combination of education with digital literacy encourages women’s contribution to decision-making that will affect them and their families positively.
Digital literacy in this day and age is as fundamental as literacy itself. Technology is playing an ever-increasing role in our society and economy, especially in women’s lives. For example, women who are also mothers are often the family organizer, financial manager and schedule handler, so products and applications can make life more manageable. In a broader context, access to the Internet and digital technologies provides tremendous opportunities for the empowerment of women and girls—from expanded education options to health applications to career enhancement.