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EmphowHER: Conversations on Reengineering a Female-led Future for Tech

Spaces World Plaza, BGC

March 17, 2023

EmphowHER: Conversations on Reengineering a Female-led Future for Tech

“Leaving no one behind means leaving no one offline.” These were the words of United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres during a speech at the 67th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women.


According to UN Women, the digital divide has become the new face of gender inequality. Global figures show that women are 18% less likely than men to own a smartphone, and far less likely to access or use the Internet. Last year, 259 million more men than women were online. 


In the technology sector, women occupy fewer positions, face a gender pay gap of 21%, and nearly half of all women working in technology have experienced workplace harassment.


Here in the Philippines, 52 million Filipinos, including a significant number of women, living in areas already covered by mobile broadband do not use mobile internet, according to the GSMA. Among the barriers faced by women are handset and data cost, limited access to networks and electricity, and safety and security concerns. 


While our country boasts of being a leader in bridging the gender gap, particularly in the Asian region, the gender digital divide has become apparent with our inevitable pivot to digital transformation. It exposed issues faced by women in the use and access of ICTs.


For women micro-entrepreneurs, slow or no internet connectivity, especially in the rural areas; lack of awareness, technical know-how, and skills in ICT; and low access to digital financing products, such as e-wallets and other banking services, have become barriers to further growth.


A Digital Readiness Study showed that while most have started their digital journey through social media sites, women entrepreneurs need more knowledge and skills to optimize the digital platform and convert engagement to sales.


Women entrepreneurs could better compete if they have the necessary digital selling skills as well as access to credit, according to a study by the International Finance Corp. (IFC). But 61% of Filipino women still do not own a bank account and were not part of the formal economy. 


We need to improve women’s use of and access to ICTs, while also creating safe online spaces. We must design digital products and services that are attuned to the needs of women and girls. But in order to do so, women and girls should be engaged in developing digital solutions.


In order to have a better understanding of how women and girls use and access ICT, the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) in collaboration with the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) conducted the Women and ICT Development Index (WIDI) Survey. This is the first-ever national survey that aims to generate indicators on how women are able to access and use ICTs. 


The survey revealed that 86% of Filipino women have access to internet and 76% use smartphones. Those who have smartphones, the most common information they searched online is relating to entertainment at 65%, followed by news (47%), health information (45%) and then communication (43%). Only 26% used it to search on education and government services, while less than 20% used it to search for employment and business opportunities.


In the area of digital economy, 55% of women purchased goods or services online, while 6% sold goods or services online. Purchasing of goods and services online is more common via mobile applications of e-commerce sites, while those who are engaged in selling goods and services online use social media as their platform.


In terms of cybersecurity and online safety, 54% of women have experienced text scams, 6% of whom were victimized; of the 7% who received hacking attempts, 32% were victimized; and of the 3% who experienced phishing attempts, 8% were victimized.


These data provide a comprehensive evidence base for more gender responsive ICT policies, plans, and programs. It will help our government identify interventions towards improving women’s ICT access and use, and craft policies to ensure cybersecurity and data privacy. Moreover, it will help us identify gaps that must be filled.


In the DICT, digital inclusion and gender equality are among the priorities. Our Free Wi-Fi program intends to provide broadband connectivity in all parts of the country, particularly the unserved and underserved areas. We already have more than 4,000 live sites in our different regions. We aim to have more than 15,000 sites in 2023, and 100,000 sites by 2025. The provision of free Wi-Fi is complemented by trainings to improve digital literacy, as well as the provision of tablets and solar and gas-powered generators, whichever is needed by the community. 


We have 1,032 Tech4ED Centers in the country that provide critical e-government and ICT-enabled services in communities with minimal to no access to information and government services. We also have the DigitalJobsPH Program that intends to increase hireability of Filipinos, especially those in the countryside; and the Courses for Literacy in Internet and Computer Knowledge, or Project CLICK, that aims to upgrade the digital skills of students and address learning losses caused by the pandemic, while educating them about cyber threats and cyber safety.


In line with our commitment to the ITU, the DICT launched the Digital Innovation for Women Advancement (DIWA) to encourage young women and girls to pursue studies and career related to STEM for their social and economic empowerment. 

We are also advancing E-governance. The streamlining of government services is crucial to help women micro-entrepreneurs easily access government services, including the application of necessary permits that will allow them to expand their businesses and access credit.


While most of these programs promote digital inclusion, the WIDI survey will guide us in ensuring that these programs will also bridge the digital gender gap. 


In the DICT, there are only two female undersecretaries—including myself—among a total of eight. But I believe our voices are loud enough to be heard and our resolve is strong enough to push for policies that will promote gender equality. 


I wish to emphasize that bridging the digital gender divide is a requisite of gender equality. The existing laws and policies on women will help us forward this cause. But we cannot do this alone. When we talk about women’s rights, we also have to open the dialogue about how men can play a role in this cause; men need to be engaged in the fight for gender equality. We can achieve this by showing the value of providing equal opportunity for women, that women’s participation is critical in our society and in the overall welfare of our nation.


The head of the UN is a man, but he was the one who recently said that “The United Nations stands with women and girls everywhere.”


That is what we need, male leaders who stand with women; and female leaders who uplift their fellow women. That is how we can bridge the digital gender gap and achieve gender equality.


Thank you and good evening.



Anna Mae "Anime" Yu Lamentillo Logo
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