The UNESCO Chair in ICT4D was delighted to represent Royal Holloway, University of London at the first Focal Point meeting of the EQUALS initiative held on the side of the UN High-Level Political Forum in New York on 18th July 2017 .
EQUALS is a global initiative founded by the ITU, UN Women, the ITC, GSMA and the UNU, and delivered by a partnership of more than 20 corporate leaders, governments, non-profit organizations, communities and individuals around the world working together to bridge the digital gender divide – by bringing women to tech, and tech to women.
Royal Holloway, University of London, was created from two of the leading women’s university institutions in the UK: Bedford College founded in 1849 as the first women’s higher education institution in the country; and Royal Holloway College, founded in 1879, also as an all-women College. The wealth of expertise of Royal Holloway, University of London’s researchers and teachers, especially those involved in the UNESCO Chair of ICT4D in fields such as information security, business management, computer science and geography, is highly relevant to the EQUALS agenda of enabling gender equality in the digital age. The Chair is also one of the first 20 research organisations committed to working as part of EQUALS Research Group led by the UNU-Computing and Society Institute, and looks forward to participating actively in the group.
This first Focal Point meeting brought together the founders and partners to explore ways through which the work of EQUALS can best be delivered through three coalitions of partners:
- Access: Ensuring that women and girls have full access to digital technologies, devices and services;
- Skills: Empowering women and girls to acquire skills to become both ICT users and creators in the digital world as well as in broader STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) fields; and
- Leadership: Promoting leadership opportunities for women in the digital workforce including women’s entrepreneurship.
The work of EQUALS can be followed at:
Despite all of the global initiatives undertaken so far to use technology to empower women, digital inequality has increased. As UNESCO reported in March 2017 “the global Internet user gender gap grew from 11% in 2013 to 12% in 2016, with the estimated gap highest in Least Developed Countries (LDCs) (31%) and Africa (23%). Moreover, Internet penetration rates remain higher from men than women in all regions of the world”. EQUALS aims to use new approaches to reverse this trend, ensuring that women across the world have the access, skills and leadership to enable them to benefit from ICTs to the same extent as do men.