CSW67 Written Statement

Innovation and technological change and education in the digital age for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls

Digital technology is a necessity in public and private life all over the world today,
bringing significant opportunities as well as challenges. Access to digital technology
depends on financial capacity, whether one lives in a developed or less developed
country, age, ethnicity, health and gender.
The COVID-19 pandemic has shown first-hand how digital technologies help to
confront the threat and keep people connected. At the same time, the technological
challenges posed by COVID-19 have been tremendous. Even as digital technology
makes it possible for people in countries with high connectivity to learn and work from
home, not all people have access to it. Less privileged people who have to be either
physically present for their jobs, or have lost their jobs, those that do not have access
to internet and digital technology, especially poor and vulnerable people, are not in a
position to use these tools. With less access to the internet and technology, women
and girls are disproportionately affected. Although digital technology has enormous
potential for positive change, it can also reinforce and magnify existing fault lines,
worsening economic and other inequalities.
According to the UN Secretary General’s 2021 report Science, technology and
innovation for sustainable development (A/76/236), in 2019 close to 87% of people in
developed countries used the internet compared to 19% in the least developed
countries. 93% of the world’s population live within reach of mobile broadband or
internet services but only 53.6% use the internet. 3.6 billion people are without
internet access. The least developed countries are also the least connected, at only
19% of their populations.
Studies on digital deprivation show that in some European countries, around 20% of
children live in families who cannot afford a computer or internet connection at home.
According to a new European Union strategy for a Better Internet for Kids (2022), 40% of rural households do not have access to fast broadband. In some areas, more than 15% of young people at the age of 15 feel digitally disengaged, and Europe-wide 8% of that age group lack digital confidence.

On a global level, the situation is even worse: 1.3 billion children aged 3 to 17 years
old are estimated not to have an internet connection in their homes. Digital
deprivation in childhood can result in a lack of digital skills and digital confidence in
adult life, reinforcing the digital divide.
Women and girls often do not have the financial means to use digital technology of
high standard, not only in least developed countries but also in developed countries.
When women‘s income is not high enough or they are financially dependent on family
members or employers to give them access. Older women often experience that
employers do not support them to undertake training in the use of digital technology
and some are not equipped with digital equipment in the workplace.

According to a report by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), Measuring
Digital Development, Facts and Figures 2021: The gender gap in global Internet use,
in two out of three countries, more men use the Internet than women. This gender
gap has been growing to 17% in 2019, and was even larger in the least developed
countries, at 43%. In 2019, the regional gender gap was largest in the least
developed countries (43%) and smallest in the Americas (1%). According to the 2021
Report of the UN Secretary General, similar challenges affect migrants, refugees,
internally displaced persons, older persons, young people, children, persons with
disabilities, rural populations and indigenous peoples.
In 2021, the UN General Assembly recognized that a gender digital divide persisted,
as 55% of men used the Internet compared with 48% of women. In the least
developed countries, only 15% of women used the Internet, compared with 29% of
men. The UN called upon all stakeholders to ensure the full participation of women in
the information society and women’s access to information and communications
technologies for development, including new technologies.
The UN General Assembly Resolution 76/213 underlines that addressing barriers to
equal access for women and girls to science, technology and innovation requires a
comprehensive, sustainable, multidisciplinary and multisectoral approach. It urges
Member States to mainstream a gender perspective in legislation, policies and
programmes, and encourages efforts to mentor, attract and retain women and girls in
science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education and research,
and enable them to acquire better job opportunities, equal payment and
empowerment. It emphasizes the importance of the participation of women and girls
in science, technology and innovation, and further encourages the United Nations
development system to support efforts to reduce gender disparities in these areas,
with the cooperation of Member States and international collaborative research
According to the 2021 Report of the UN Secretary General, in 2018, women and girls
were 27 times more likely to be harassed online than men. In addition to the impacts
on health and dignity, the threat of online abuse is leading many women to “log off” of
social media, perpetuating and entrenching inequalities in the space. They are facing
persistent harassment and violence online, including death threats, threats of sexual
and gender-based violence and defamation and disinformation campaigns.
Harassment and hate speech online can lead to physical violence offline. Increased
digitalization owing to the current global health crisis has increased such threats.
It is important that the Internet provide a safe space for information-sharing,
education, expression, mobilization and participation. Cyberbullying, online sexual
harassment and hate speech are serious problems women and girls face. In the last
decades, there has been a rise in hate speech and hate crime impacting targeted
individuals and communities. Globally, more than a third of young people have
reported being victims of cyberbullying. Children may be exposed to and participate
in toxic, aggressive behaviour or be targets of inappropriate, sexist or racist content.
This can in turn discourage participation in online activities by girls, and impact
children’s rights.

Online child sexual abuse must not be considered less severe than offline child
sexual abuse. Laws must be adopted, and legal protection in the digital environment
must be improved.
Member States and businesses, including cross-industry initiatives, should advocate
for transparent and accountable content governance frameworks that protect
freedom of expression, avoid incentives for overly restrictive moderation practices,
and protect the most vulnerable.
The undersigned non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in consultative status with
the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), members of the NGO Committee on
the Status of Women Vienna, call upon the United Nations Member States to:

  • Assure that all women and girls in the UN Member States have equal access
    to digital technology; provide the same opportunities of education and access
    to digital technology for women and girls in rural areas and in less developed
  • Apply a gender lens to all interventions on digital cooperation and
    technologies, acknowledging gender-differentiated vulnerabilities to
    digitalization and identifying risk mitigation actions;
  • Provide the same education and access for women and girls as for men and
    boys in technical sciences, mathematics, digital technology and other STEM
    fields and research, and encourage them through information about job
    opportunities in these areas;
  • Provide legal measures for older women to receive training for digital
    technology and access to computers and internet in the workplace;
  • Assure that women receive equal treatment and equal pay and promotion
    opportunities in job areas of innovation, research, digital technology and other
    STEM areas, and support employers in public and private sectors to create
    opportunities for women and girls in digital technology and other STEM areas;
  • Support employers to protect women and girls of sexual harassment through
    rules of work and rules of behaviour between genders in the work place;
  • Promote consistent cybercrime legislation, policies and strategies; strengthen
    the capacity of police authorities to investigate cybercrime and engage in
    effective regional and global cooperation; and enable criminal justice
    authorities to apply legislation and prosecute and adjudicate cases of
    cybercrime, cyberbullying, internet abuse and hate speech;
  • Provide training for women and girls on how to prevent and respond to
    internet abuse, hate speech and cyberviolence;
  • Monitor and evaluate how governments, private and public sector and other
    stakeholders ensure women’s and girl‘s full participation in the information
    society and access to digital technologies and internet;
  • Protect, fund and support projects that empower women and girls in their
    education and in work life in innovation, technology, digitalization and