Bare as they are, figures portray the reality as it is. And statistics about the access of girls and young women to the digital tools say that, today, not more than 48 per cent of women use the Internet, compared to 55 per cent of men.
Unequal access to digital technology brings about unequal access to learning, work opportunities, social engagement and political life. And there is more: access is often unsafe for women, who are often the target of cyberbullying even from their closest male and female friends, and partners.
Based on this premise, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU)—the United Nations agency responsible for information and communication technologies (ICTs)—decided to focus the eleventh edition of its "International Girls in ICT Day", which, this year, is observed today, 28 April, on "Access and safety".
Since 2011, the International Girls in ICT Day is observed every year on the fourth Thursday of April. On this day, the role of young women in information and communication technologies is highlighted, to raise awareness of the importance of ICT for girls' education and career. To date, over 600,000 girls and young women have taken part in more than 12,000 celebrations of Girls in ICT Day in 195 countries worldwide.
"Women also remain underrepresented among senior scientists in academia. According to the 2021 UNESCO Science Report, they are awarded less research funding than men, and are less likely to be promoted," said Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO, and Sima Bahous, Executive Director of UN-Women, in a joint message delivered this year for the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, which is observed on 11 February.
And they added: "However, more generally speaking, we need to provide more opportunities in science and innovation to women. That is why UNESCO and UN-Women strive to get girls into science education and to ensure their rightful place in these professions and industries."
TWAS is also a long-standing advocate of technological development and digital revolution, especially in the least developed countries, and is committed to ensuring gender equality in accordance with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal n. 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.
As an example, the Academy, with five of its Fellows, was involved in the establishment of the United Nations Technology Bank for Least Developed Countries, a global organization dedicated to enhancing science, technology and innovation for sustainable development.
And in its twenty-seventh General Meeting held in Rwanda, in 2016, Academy's representatives encouraged more actions to increase women's participation in the scientific enterprise.
The communities identified in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development as being at high risk of being left behind, however, are the very same that lack digital inclusion. And an estimated 37 per cent of the world's population—about 2.9 billion people—have never used the Internet. Even worse, an estimated 96 per cent of these live in developing countries.
"Currently 50 per cent of the world’s women are offline [...] This is not because of [...] exclusion caused by issues of affordability, gender-biased sociocultural norms, and a lack of education [...]. We must promote the education of women in science and technology fields by facilitating scholarships and training opportunities; by dismantling gender stereotypes that discourage women from entering these fields; and by taking action to stop online harassment and misogyny," said Abdulla Shahid, President of the Seventy-sixth Session of the United Nations General Assembly, in a message released today.
TWAS is committed more than ever to bridging this gap.