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Overcoming The Digital Gender Gap

Twitter application on a mobile phone.
Twitter application on a mobile phone.

The Obama Administration has centered its development policy on women.

The Obama Administration has centered its development policy on women. Investing in women and girls is an efficient and proven way to promote peace and jump-start economic growth. Thus, under the leadership of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the United States has been advancing the status of women and girls around the world.

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One very effective way to empower women and girls is to increase their access to technology. “Putting women and technology together has the potential to be one of the highest-leverage opportunities to address the world's development challenges,” recently wrote Ann Mei Chang, Senior Advisor for Women and Technology in the Secretary's Office of Global Women's Issues.

“Enabling access to [information and communication] technologies, [or ICT,] delivering relevant applications and services, and ensuring inclusion in the lucrative tech sector will become increasingly critical factors in women's ability to contribute fully to their individual, familial, and societal outcomes,” she said.

Unfortunately, in too many countries, far more men than women have access to mobile phones, the internet, and other ICTs. In 2010, A groundbreaking study by the Cherie Blair Foundation and GSMA found that women were 21percent less likely to own a mobile phone in low-to-medium income countries.

And, a new report released recently by the Intel Corporation and Dalberg Global Development Advisors found an even more significant gap of almost 25 percent between the number of men and women who have access to the Internet, with almost twice as many men as women having access to the Internet in sub-Saharan Africa.

This means that too many women and girls are unable to take advantage of programs such as Mobile MAMA, which offers vital health information for new and expectant mothers, or Safaricom's M-PESA mobile money services, which enables Kenyan women to take advantage of financial services for the first time.

Closing the Information and Communications Technologies gender gap has the potential to improve the lives of women and girls by leaps and bounds.

Through programs like mWomen, a partnership with telecom providers to halve the mobile phone gender gap, or the recently held first “International Forum on Women, ICT, and Development (WICTAD)”, the United States is working to remove gender-related barriers, increase access to ICT, and fully realize the potential economic contribution of women.