Access To Digital Services Can Bridge Digital Gender Divide

Pakistan, according to Ms. Khawaja, is the second-worst performing nation in the world on the Gender Gap Index and ranks 90th out of 122 nations in terms of the digital gender divide.

PTA Hosts Workshop For Digital Gender Inclusion Strategy

To bridge the digital gender divide, women must be digitally literate, have access to digital goods and services, and be familiar with e-commerce. Speaking at a seminar on “DigitALL: innovation and technology for gender equality” held here by the Sustainable Development Policy Institute in honour of International Women’s Day, Shaza Fatima Khawaja, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Youth Affairs, made this claim.

Pakistan, according to Ms. Khawaja, is the second-worst performing nation in the world on the Gender Gap Index and ranks 90th out of 122 nations in terms of the digital gender divide.

She briefed the audience on a number of government-sponsored programmes, such as the Digiskills programme, the laptop programme, and the Digital Pakistan Policy, which included ICT for girls. She claimed that the Ministry of Information and Technology (IT) ran these initiatives to improve the information technology skills of children, men, and women.

She continued, “IT is a market that is rapidly evolving, but the employment prospects of IT graduates remain low due to structural issues in academia.” She added that the IT Ministry is working on short courses to meet the industry’s demands by upskilling students, ensuring market competitiveness, and increasing employment prospects.

Policies in Pakistan are typically gender-blind, according to Dr. Abid Qaiyoum Suleri, Executive Director of SDPI; as a result, a more inclusive and gendered approach is required when formulating policies.

According to him, FinTech has improved women’s access to financial services, particularly through mobile phones, but more than three-fourths of Pakistani women do not have access to the internet. He added that the internet is no longer a safe place for many women. He stressed the need for improving the online safety of women to provide them with a safe and conducive environment.

Only 1.5% of Pakistani women have access to the internet, and only 30% of them have mobile phones, demonstrating the stark disparity, Shamama Arbab of Confounded, Euro Industries, noted.

Through incentives like mobile sims with free internet packages and audio-enabled applications for women, she emphasised equity rather than equality in digital services and skills. She urged the government to grant gender credits in order to motivate organisations to hire more women.

She emphasised that upskilling initiatives must be a part of corporate social responsibility to emancipate women in rural and underdeveloped areas as she clarified the roles of corporate and development partners.

In order to provide women with a secure learning environment, Hina Nasir, Director Marketing and Public Relations, Special Technology Zones Authority (STZA), suggested establishing community centres with internet and computer equipment as well as teachers. She emphasised that while access to fintech and literacy are important, men must be included in the conversation to make them allies in women’s emancipation.

Ayesha Nasir, founder of Scaryammi, emphasised the importance of upskilling mothers to become IT savvy without formal training. Rabia Umaima Ahmed, journalist and RTI activist, urged a review of the effectiveness of government agencies in handling and resolving complaints and the safety of online spaces for women. Cyberbullying and harassment have severely restricted many women’s digital spaces, placing them in danger.

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