The inaugural Africa Summit on Women and Girls in Technology sponsored by the Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI) and the World Wide Web Foundation took place on the 13-14th September, 2016 at the Labadi Beach Hotel, Accra.
The summit brought together a wealth of human capital from over twenty-eight different countries with various areas of expertise; the Summit discussed the intersection of policy and technology on the headline topic, and encouraged participants to tease out the pertinent issues.
Speakers and panel members of the summit were from organizations like UN Women, Facebook, African Development Bank (AfDB), Google, the World Bank, and the Ghana-India Kofi Annan Centre of Excellence in ICT among several others. The summit established the importance of including African females at the heart of any development venture on the continent, and encouraged regulators and practitioners alike to reach for the achievement of Goal 5b of the SDGs, which seeks to “Enhance the use of enabling technology, in particular information and communications technology, to promote the empowerment of women.”
Speaking to the issue, Anne Githuku-Shongwe, a rep from UN Women, challenged participants to think about scale, and to aim for 100% of women to access all their rights online at affordable rates. A Lightening Talk presenter made memories with a catchphrase, “One Click”, buttressing presented evidence that just one digital literacy program increased the income of some rural women by about 20% within just nine months.
The Need for Trans-Generational Thinking
Commending the inter-generational nature of participants at the summit, as well as the presence of some men, Onica Makwakwa of A4AI said that African women are thinking in a technological way every day to solve domestic problems, and this must be extended into the digital space. She also urged that developers think about how to pass on digital literacy to older women in a relatable manner such that it can permeate through societies. Simultaneously, this is the time to find gifted young girls and encourage them to enter STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) education. At the same time, it was mentioned that men also need to be taught how to pass on this kind of knowledge to women since they are more likely than not to be the ones who introduce women to technology.
The way forward
While recognizing the significant contributions of participants to enhancing the cause, many speakers emphasized the need for improving affordability and accessibility of the internet to women all over the world, preserving and enforcing women’s rights online and protecting them from social, psychological and emotional cyberbullying. Additionally, there was need identified for digital education, skills, and digital entrepreneurship among women in order to increase their utility and benefits to be derived from being a part of the online world.
The #keepiton campaign was also highlighted, which seeks to apply pressure against several governments who have been shutting down the internet when their citizens start trending issues of rights violations and the like. Ghana was commended for the NCA’s decision not to restrict social media access during the upcoming 2016 elections.
Credit: Aseda Mensah/PDA Ghana