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Will the Open Government Partnership Commit to Gender Equality this year?

Web Foundation · December 6, 2016

Join us at the OGP Summit on December 8th at 13:45-15:05 where we will be hosting a workshop on:Women’s Rights Online and Access to Information: Why Gender Equality Matters for Open Government

Seventy Open Government Partnership (OGP) member countries have endorsed The Open Government Declaration, committing them to increasing the public availability of government information and to empower all citizens to participate in decision making.

Vital to these commitments (and enshrined in the Declaration) is the pledge by all 70 governments to:

  1. open up government information and data  
  2. uphold citizens’ right to information
  3. ensure everyone has equitable, affordable access to safe online platforms as well as the skills to use technology to engage with decision makers.  

In order for OGP members to make good on these promises, governments must take concrete actions to close persistent gender gaps in access to information, technology and data.

The Internet is an important tool for everyone to seek and access information, build associations, innovate and solve problems, and to participate in civic life. But the gender digital divide means that women are not only excluded, but also discriminated against – preventing them from fully participating in all of these processes. If “citizen” participation mostly means “men’s” participation, how is that good for democracy?

Last year our Women’s Rights Online network launched a global report based on a year­ long household survey research that revealed extreme gender and poverty inequalities in access to information and participation through the Web across urban poor areas across Africa, Asia and Latin America. In poor urban areas in the global South, women are 50% less likely to be online than men. Once online, women are also 30-50% less likely to use the web to access important information related to their rights or to speak out online. Our research suggests that Internet access is not translating into increased opportunity for women to access information, build and join associations or have their voices heard.  

Together with our Women’s Rights Online partners across 10 countries, we also recently conducted a Digital Gender Gap Audit to assess policy measures taken by governments towards gender equality online. Our assessment confirms the dire neglect of gender considerations across policies and programmes related to women’s access, affordability, digital skills, relevant content and services and online safety.

Given that the majority of women worldwide are offline and silenced, governments must address growing gender digital and data divides for women to exercise their right to information and to participate in public civic life. Failing to do so risks further entrenching existing gender and poverty inequalities, and ultimately impoverishes democracy.

Several Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) on women and technology provide an unprecedented opportunity for governments around the world to drive comprehensive policy change to reverse growing digital inequality, and to ensure that women around the world have equal access, capabilities and opportunity to participate in government processes as equal citizens in an increasingly digital world. The SDGs commit governments to achieve:

  • SDG 1.4: equal access to basic services [and] appropriate new technology for all women and men by 2030
  • SDG 5b: women’s empowerment through technology;
  • SDG 9c: universal, affordable Internet access in least developed countries by 2020;
  • SDG 17: significantly increase the availability of high-quality, timely, and reliable gender-disaggregated data.

Commitments to implementing these SDGs and to achieving greater gender equality in society must be enshrined in National Action Plans (NAPs) which all OGP members have developed. But currently just 18 National Action Plan commitments out of thousands represent women or gender. And only 10 out of 70 OGP countries’ NAPs include these commitments.

Gender commitments in OGP NAPs

Given this, much work remains for OGP countries and their NAPs to become fully responsive to gender equality and women’s rights. Closing the gender gaps in technology, access to information and data requires immediate action from governments to adopt gender responsive policies and National Action Plans that further the rights and interests of women.

So what can be done?

Join us at the OGP Summit on December 8th at 13:45-15:05 where we will be hosting a workshop on: Women’s Rights Online and Access to Information: Why Gender Equality Matters for Open Government

In the workshop participants will break into small groups and participate short discussions in an “Around the World” format with the goal of knowledge sharing and identifying new strategies and opportunities to engage OGP members in prioritising gender equality and women’s rights in national action plan commitments.

Discussion topics include:

  • All women count: gender in open data and open government Ana Brandusescu and Nnenna Nwakanma (Web Foundation)
  • From access to empowerment: What are the inequalities that women face in exercising the right to information? How can access to information, particularly government information and data, lead to real empowerment for women? Laura Neuman (The Carter Center)
  • Women’s Rights Online Report Cards: A framework for monitoring country policy commitments to women’s access to information and participation online Ingrid Brudvig (Web Foundation)

We look forward to welcoming you to the workshop, and hearing your views on why and how to make gender equality a priority for open government.

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