ITU/UN women EQUALS in Tech awards ceremony: Closing the gender digital divide 

19 Dec 2017 17:00h - 18:30h

Event report

[Read more session reports and live updates from the 12th Internet Governance Forum]

This session, moderated by Ms Doreen Bogdan-Martin, Chief of the Strategic Planning and Membership Department, International Telecommunication Union (ITU), was a ceremony where the ITU and UN presented the winners of EQUALS in Tech Awards. This award celebrates initiatives that are closing the gender digital divide. The award is the flagship event of the EQUALS partnership, a multi-stakeholder initiative created to promote awareness, build political commitment, and leverage knowledge, efforts, and resources to achieve digital gender equality at both the global and national levels.

First, a video message from Ms Amina J. Mohammed, Deputy Secretary-General, United Nations, was presented. The video gave some background about the award which recognises the outstanding women working to overcome social bias and stereotypes, and empower role models, and congratulated the finalists and the winners. Mohammed noted that it is a role of all stakeholders to overcome structural bias in the technological sector. She also reminded the audience that one of the SDGs is to bridge the gender digital divide.

Mr Houlin Zhao, Secretary-General, International Telecommunication Union (ITU), congratulated the finalists for their work on innovative projects in their regions. He noted that Internet access is one of the indicators of country development and that we are all are responsible for accelerating the implementation of the SDGs, including especially those empowering women. Zhao ended his intervention saying that women have to be equal in rights and in the use of technology.

Mr Raul Echeberría, Vice President, Global Engagement, Internet Society, began his speech by explaining what the Internet Society is, and why they are proud to sponsor the award. He pointed out that there are two hundred million [VP1] fewer women than men online, to reinforce the importance of this kind of initiative. Echeberría described another initiative that recognises women in technology, the ‘Shine the light’ project promoted by the Internet Society.

In his intervention, Ambassador Thomas Schneider, Director of International Affairs, Swiss Federal Office of Communications (OFCOM), said that there are a lot of activities that women do not yet include women. According to Schneider, now is the time to act to achieve gender equality, because this will benefit all people, not just women. Schneider concluded his participation by underlining the importance of inspirng girls and women to engage in science, technology, and mathematics careers.

Ms S.I.H. Shah, from Facebook, stated that there are two main challenges confronting women using the Internet: (1) the affordability of the connection; and (2) online safety.

A second video explained that 239 nominations were received from 72 countries and 15 finalists were chosen.

The first awarded category highlighted projects that ensure that women and girls have an affordable access to technology and the Internet. The winner was Lebanese Alternative Learning.

The second category involved projects which empowered women with skills on how to use technology, from basic digital literacy through the entire spectrum of STEM education. The winner was the Digital Citizen Fund.

The third category recognised leadership projects that allow equal representation of women professionally, which would hopefully encourage their advancement and development within these fields. The winner was Sula Batsu Cooperativa.

The awards were delivered by Ms Lakshmi Puri, Deputy Executive Director, Intergovernmental Support and Strategic Partnerships Bureau, UN Women and Mr Houlin Zhao.

The session was followed by a cocktail reception.

By Nathalia Sautchuk Patricio