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21 Jun

Vodacom kicks off Code Like A Girl 2019

According to a news report, Vodacom, through its Code Like A Girl project, will teach coding skills to 500 female students across eight provinces in South Africa.

Launched in 2017, the project aims to empower girls between 14 and 18 to develop interest in ICT careers through learning how to code.

Commenting on the 2019 edition of the programme which will take place during the winter school holidays between 24 June and 5 July; VodacomChief Officer of Corporate Affairs Takalani Netshitenzhe said ‘the Code Like A Girl programme is designed to give girls an interest in a sector currently more popular with boys, helping widen their opportunities and increase their future career choices’.


 

11 Jun

EU Women in Digital 2019 Scoreboard

The EU Women in Digital Scoreboard 2019 reports that Finland, Sweden, Luxembourg, and Denmark again lead the rankings, while women from Bulgaria, Romania, Greece, and Italy continue to have the lowest scores for women in ICTs. It also reports that a gender gap continues to be present in all 13 of the report's indicators, with only 17% of ICT specialist being women, although women represent 34% of STEM graduates. This is also reflected in a 19% among others. The  individual country reports offer four types of analysis: general performance assessment, individual country indicators, progress over time, and comparative analysis between countries.

7 Jun

Online safety and privacy challenges for women in South Asia

The media reports on meaningful online participation challenges for women in South Asia, where the main challenge is ensuring their safety and privacy. A large-scale study led by Nithya in partnership with universities and teams from Google, looks into challenges faced by women in India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. Data shows  that South Asia faces one of the largest gender disparities online in the world, where women are‘28% less likely to own a phone and 57% less likely to connect to the mobile Internet than men’. Ensuring women’s privacy and safety is the biggest challenge because they often share their devices with family members ‘for cultural and economic reasons’. Use of online platforms for women is potentially a life-threatening risk, such was the case of Qandeel Baloch, a social media celebrity in Pakistan, who was murdered by her brother for publishing selfies online. The research team conducted multiple interviews with 199 participants from India (103), Pakistan (52), and Bangladesh (44), out of which 11 identified as queer, lesbian, or transgender male-to-female. It was noted that many of participants in the interview said: ‘Privacy is not for me, it’s for those rich women’. 72% of participants reported experiencing digital abuse, like unwanted messages or the non-consensual release of information about them. Emotional harm and damage to reputation were the most common consequences reported (55% and 43%, respectively). As one of the examples of consequences of online abuse in real life is a case of a 21 year old women from India who hanged herself after her scarcely dressed pictures went viral on Facebook.

25 May

Girl commits suicide over social media blackmailing

The media reports a girl in Badin, Pakistan, has committed suicide because of a social media blackmailing she was experiencing. In a letter she left, she admitted being blackmailed by a ‘boy and his friends over edited pictures’ which they sent to her fiancé, which resulted with their engagement being called off. She also gave Rs50,000 to people who were blackmailing her. Police is searching for suspects. Digital Rights Foundation from Pakistan, released a report in May 2017 which shows that 40 % of women in the country face various forms of harassment on the Internet.

23 May

Discussing gender-based online violence at the Stockholm Internet Forum

A number of challenges in relation to the growing digital trend and the use of online platforms has been discussed at the Stockholm Internet Forum, 16-17 May 2019. One of the topics has been ‘The shifting terrain of gender-based violence online’. Panelists agreed that women are targeted online and are the subject for online harassment and threats, cyberstalking, sexual violence. However, violence against women happening in virtual spaces have serious effects in women’s real lives. Plan International’s research shows that harassment and bullying happening online is gendered the same way when it happens in the “offline world”. Jac sm Kee, manager of Association for Progressive Communications (APC) Women’s Rights Programme, said that there is ‘absolute impunity towards all of these actions because some perpetrators hide under anonymity, arguing that the gender-based violence is difficult to capture due to its constant shifting as technologies emerge. A gender activist, Esther Esperanza, noted that the violence experienced online is just a reflection of what women experience on a daily basis, but more intense because of the opportunity to hide behind fake profiles. Frane Maroevic, Director of the Office of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe’s (OSCE) Representative on Freedom of the Media, said that there ‘such speech is not necessarily illegal but it is damaging, so how do you deal with this? We need to see how we can work with governments to address these threats to be taken far more seriously.’

20 May

All-girls robotics team wins World Robofest Championship

An all-girls robotics team from Ghana, Team Acrobot, won the World Robofest Championship held in the United States (U.S.), leaving behind teams from the U.S., Mexico, Egypt, and South Korea, among others. Team Acrobot dominated all ten categories of the Championship, which included: the Game (complete robotic missions), Exhibition (show off projects), Vision Centric Challenge (develop robots to solve problems using cameras), Unknown Mission Challenge (surprise missions), RoboArts (robotics music, dance and arts competition), BottleSumo (pushing bottle or opponents off a table), RoboParade (parade of robots), Camps, Carnival and WISER, and a conference on STEM education through robotics. Ghana team has built a robot which can arrange boxes, based on a binary number they were given on the competition. Ghana had one more team of five boys which came in sixth out of the overall of 52 teams in the competition. First Robofest has been organised in 1999 with the aim to provide students with the opportunity to master principles of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) as well as Computer Science (CS), communication, critical thinking, teamwork, and problem solving skills.

17 May

UNESCO issues recommendations to address gender bias in AI applications

In a recent paper produced in collaboration with Germany and the EQUALS Skills Coalition, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) outlines several recommendations for companies and governments to combat gender bias in artificial intelligence (AI) applications. Titled 'I'd blush if I could. Closing gender divides in digital skills through education', the publication addresses the issue of a wider and growing digital skills gender gap. It includes recommendations to help women and girls develop strong skills through education, while also explaining the ICT gender equality paradox (countries with the highest level of gender equality also have the lowest proportion of women pursuing advanced degrees in computer science). In a distinct chapter, the publication looks at how AI voice assistants projected as young women perpetuate harmful gender bias, and offers recommendations meant to help ensure that the proliferation of digital assistants does not widen gender divides. Tech companies are encouraged to stop making digital assistants female by default, to look into developing a neutral machine gender for voice assistants, and to programme digital assistants to discourage gender-based insults and overly abusive language. Governments are advised to use public procurements and funding as a driver of gender equality in AI and establish accountability mechanisms and public oversight that can prevent or mitigate algorithmic bias and violations of rights.

4 Apr

UNCTAD launches eTrade for Women Network to connect e-commerce leaders

The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) kicked off the eTrade for Women Network during the fifth UNCTAD eCommerce Week on 1-5 April 2019 in Geneva. The network aims to empower women in developing countries through improving the profile of women leaders engaged in the digital economy and making their voices heard in policy processes both domestically and internationally. ‘A systematic effort to collect, nurture and enhance the experiences of women involved in e-commerce is needed,’ elaborated UNCTAD Deputy Secretary-General Isabelle Durant. To this aim, the eTrade for Women Network was developed for four main reasons: 1- visibility: to increase the visibility of successful women entrepreneurs in e-commerce in developing countries, 2- largesse: to provide them with a relevant network of peers, 3- Inspiration: to inspire the next generation of women entrepreneurs and e-business leaders in developing countries, and 4- learning: to highlight good practices emerging from the field that are likely to add value to existing gender initiatives.

16 Mar

OSCE Report on Legal Responses to Online Harassment and Abuse of (Female) Journalists

The Representative on Freedom of the Media (RFoM) of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) published a report which looks into legal remedies for attacks against journalists happening online. It specifically looks into three case studies, in Finland, France, and Ireland, of female journalists who have suffered online attacks for the work they do. Journalist face increased attacks and abuse through social media, online fora and other through other ICT means, which ‘often includes violent threats of death and rape’. Female journalists ‘bare additional burden’ since they are being attacked solely on the basis of their gender. The report offers best practices and recommendations for OSCE member States in implementing and interpreting laws in order to respond more effectively to increased and diversified forms of online harassment of journalists.

15 Mar

Taking Stock: Data and Evidence on Gender Equality in Digital Access, Skills and Leadership

The United Nations University in collaboration with EQUALS Research Group published report on Taking Stock: Data and Evidence on Gender Equality in Digital Access, Skills and Leadership which was presented at the 63rd session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW 63). The report looks at the impact of information and communication technologies (ICT) on women and girls in different aspects including jobs and wages, security and privacy, cyber-threats, and new technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI). The research notes that the gender digital divide is attributed to not only lack of access to ICT but also the lack of digital skills required to reap the benefits of these technologies in improving the economic and social conditions of women and girls. The report pinpoints six impediments to gender digital divide: (a) availability of infrastructure, (b) financial constraints, (c) ICT ability and aptitude, (d) interest and perceived relevance of ICTs, (e) safety and security, (f) socio-cultural barriers, and (g) institutional contexts. According to the report, the gender digital divide becomes persistent as technology becomes more sophisticated and expensive.

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