Today is Girls in ICT Day, where we celebrate the women and girls building the future of technology.
In past years, there have been in-person events across the world, bringing people together to advance the participation of girls in technology. This year, of course, all activity is happening online. As the world shuts down and we stay home, the web is where dialogue, debate and decisions happen.
This global health crisis has highlighted the importance of internet access as a critical lifeline — while shining a harsh light on the digital divides that seperate those who have access and those who do not.
One of the starkest divides is along gender, with men and boys 21% more likely to be online than women and girls, rising to 52% in the world’s least developed countries. Until we close the digital gender gap, girls will not have equal opportunities to use technology, become engineers and shape the industry.
Through the work of our Women’s Rights Online network and the incredible grassroots women’s digital skills initiatives supported by the EQUALS Digital Skills Fund, we’ve seen the amazing opportunities that digital technologies offer girls who have access to these tools and the resources to develop their digital skills. And we’ve seen first-hand how girls around the world are putting their skills into action.
On the web’s 30th birthday, our co-founders Sir Tim Berners-Lee and Rosemary Leith met girls at the Women’s Technology Empowerment Centre (W.TEC) in Lagos, Nigeria. W.TEC educates and empowers women and girls by teaching digital skills and is a shining example of the opportunities all girls should have to learn and become the technology leaders of the future.
Reflecting on his visit to the center, Sir Tim wrote to the girls at W.TEC, encouraging them to use their power to develop the web:
“You fill me with hope for the web’s impact on our world because, as you bring new voices and experiences to the web, you will change it for the better.
You can already make a difference. When you go online, write about your experiences and hopes for the future. Share the issues you care about and tell your political leaders what you stand for. Make sure your culture, beliefs and local languages are represented on the web. And use your coding skills to solve challenges specific to Nigeria and West Africa.
When you do this you will make life better for yourself and others in Lagos. At the same time, you will improve the web as a whole.”
The web can be a tremendous force for equality. But the persistent digital gender gap means too many women and girls around the world don’t have the opportunities to use the web to learn, earn and have their voices heard.
We must fight for a web that is truly for everyone. One of the core goals of Contract for the Web — a global plan of action we launched last year to build the web we want — is to expand affordable internet access to everyone. This Girls in ICT Day, join us to build a better online world for women — and in turn, a better online world for everyone — by backing the Contract.
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