5 Lessons learned, conclusion, check-list and way forward

Lessons learned

Some gender mainstreaming practices are more popular than others. Practices helping women and girls to access digital skills are the most reported in the pool of practices collected for this handbook. Practices on access to infrastructure and digital services are the least reported.

Practices rarely cover only one policy area; they typically address more than one. Examples of practices addressing at least two policy areas include Center for Genders in Technology in Argentina, Mainstreaming Gender through National Inter-Sectoral Gender Strategy in the State of Palestine, and Silicon Mountain community in Cameroon.

Practices often make physical infrastructure (e.g., Center for Genders in Technology in Argentina; IT Park centres in Uzbekistan; ICT Access Centres in Trinidad and Tobago) and virtual resources (e.g., Virtual University in Senegal; Mahara-Tech online platform in Egypt) work together. Governments often support practices by providing technology (e.g. laptops, tablets, mobile phones), facilitating physical infrastructure (e.g. digital points or centres that offer Internet connection) or offering free Internet access for a limited amount of time.

Practices supporting women and girls are not exclusive to the ICT sector. They can be identified in other areas such as health. This is, for instance, the case of the Health Tech Lab in Serbia and the transmission of mammograms through 5G technology in Chile.

Mainstreaming gender in digital policies requires collective action and long-term commitments between governments, private sector, and civil society. Practices in this handbook established partnerships between government, private sector (typically owning knowledge and resources), international and regional organizations, and local institutions (e.g., Digitalr@s Girls programme partnering with municipalities in Argentina; Women’s bank in Zimbabwe relying on the local infrastructure of the Zimbabwe Post Office).

Collaboration and partnerships were established at different levels: bilateral (e.g., Ghana, South Africa in the framework of #eSkills4Girls), multilateral (e.g., EQUALS), and with private sector and NGOs (e.g., Africa Code Week).

Not only financial resources need to be made available. Sometimes know how is a resource that, in order to make it available for women and girls, it requires an enhanced collaboration with private sector and universities.

The set up for putting in place digital policies that are gender equal does not seem to differ from the one needed for digital policies in general. Practices in this handbook show that the government institutions that put in place gender mainstreaming practices are the ones putting in place digital policies (e.g., the Ministry in charge of ICTs, the ICT regulator, and other government institutions dealing with the five policy areas contributing to gender equality in the digital space such as the ministry in charge of trade, the ministry in charge of education, the ministry in charge of finance; the central bank, the ministry in charge of gender).

Coordination between ministries, if institutionalized, takes the shape of an inter-ministerial committee such as Chile’s Committee on Gender Equality in ICT. In most cases, however, coordination and consultation across government institutions takes place but it is not necessarily an institutionalized process. Furthermore, collaboration between government institutions and international organizations is also frequent during the implementation of gender mainstreaming practices.

Gender mainstreaming practices collected for this handbook are often aligned with objectives of national strategic documents. Inclusion of gender references in these strategic documents is important to ensure that gender objectives are taken into consideration when putting in place digital policies.


Practices mainstreaming gender in digital policies can take different shapes ranging from a specific activity (e.g., a conversation with girls on how to become a scientist held in Guatemala), to a project (e.g., Murambinda community network in Zimbabwe), a programme (e.g., eSafety Women Program in Australia), to a strategy (e.g. Gender Equality, Disability and Social Inclusion Strategy in Australia; National Inter-Sectoral Gender Strategy in the State of Palestine), an institution (e.g. Center Genders in Technology in Argentina), and a network or a community (e.g., Silicon Mountain Community in Cameroon).

Given the limited number of practices by region, it is difficult to provide conclusions highlighting regional differences. Based on the practices collected for this handbook, there seems to be no ‘one size fits all’ approach to gender mainstreaming. It does not seem feasible to implement practices if they are not adjusted to a given country context or reality. For instance, when it comes to practices supporting women and girls’ access to digital skills, replicability and scalability will likely be determined by the existing level of digital skills in each country, its national priorities in terms of skills acquisition, etc.

Gender mainstreaming can be done by including specific objectives (e.g., references) to gender/women/girls in key national strategic documents such as digital agendas, or national financial inclusion strategies. This approach has been illustrated in the special feature on LDCs.

Another option is to put together programmes or projects that specifically address women and girls. This approach has been followed by most practices in this handbook, ranging from online courses offering digital skills, to mentorship programmes especially dedicated to women.

A third option is to set gender criteria for the assessment of project proposals. This approach has been adopted in practices reported by Australia and by the State of Palestine.

Lastly, success factors are multiple. For instance, in Guatemala, the support from ITU and the official support in the form of a ministerial decree contributed to institutionalize the Girls in ICT Day. In Zimbabwe, the Murambinda Community Network was successful despite all odds, thanks to the passionate community driving the project and a multi-sector approach that brought everybody together. In Chile, setting up un institutionalized collaboration among ministries and other government agencies and structured communication has worked to mainstream gender across different policy areas including ICT. In Azerbaijan, campaigning about the practice and sending official letters to other ministries has contributed to its visibility. In Australia, extensive research and consultation across government institutions contributed to establishment of the eSafety Women Programme.

Checklist for policy-makers

This actionable checklist outlines the process of mainstreaming gender in digital policies, based on the 27 practices analysed in this handbook.

Gather data and conduct research

Gather gender disaggregated data and conduct research to identify areas where women are at disadvantage vis-à-vis men (e.g., Australia’s practices were designed based on prior research; Ethiopia’s National Statistics Office developed a manual on how to collect gender disaggregated data shared with other government agencies).
Use surveys to understand the current situation of gender in digital policies (e.g., location of ICT centres in Trinidad and Tobago was defined based on the results of a survey assessing underserved areas).
Gather information about existing similar projects and programmes – remove overlaps and promote synergies (e.g., EIF-ITU project found that in three LDCs covered by the project, several projects and/or programmes are in place targeting women and girls).

Define a gender mainstreaming practice

Structure your practice by defining objective, activities and governance.
Consider that the practice can address more than one policy area (e.g., practice often couple access to digital technology with access to digital skills).
Identify similar gender mainstreaming practices from your region or elsewhere and take on board lessons learned from those practices.
Define the practice activities (i.e., refer to the lists of activities identified in section 3), governance (e.g., appoint a technical and managerial team).

Align the practice with national strategic documents

Ensure the practice is aligned with the objectives of the overarching national ICT policy or master plan.
Ensure the practice is aligned with national strategic documents that guide work on other policy areas such as the National Strategy on Financial Inclusion; the National Education Strategy; the National Energy Plan, etc.
If a national strategic document does not exist, promote the adoption of one that includes a dedicated chapter or section stating concrete actions to support women and girls.

Allocate resources

Budget: Define a specific budget for the implementation of the gender mainstreaming practice (e.g., GESDI from Australia; Gender Mainstreaming practice from the State of Palestine).
Staff: for some logistical tasks, consider relying on resources of institutions such as the national post office with offices in different parts of the country (e.g., Women’s bank in Zimbabwe relying on the local infrastructure of the Zimbabwe Post Office, particularly to reach rural areas).
Develop tools to help partners align with a gender mainstreaming strategy or policy (e.g., offer workshops to implementing agencies; design a self-assessment tool such as the one developed in the practice from Australia; refer to resources listed in section 3).

Identify focal points in key government institutions and consult with stakeholders

Identify gender focal points in dedicated ministries (e.g., if the practice is about financial inclusion, consider the ministry in charge of finance, the central bank, etc.).
Discuss the practice with gender focal points in other government institutions. Check UN Women’s Directory of National Mechanisms for Gender Equality.65
Consult with stakeholders that will be affected by the practice and with other stakeholders such as business representatives, civil society organizations, regional regulatory associations, and international organizations.
Get official support to the practice (e.g., the Ministry in charge of Education has issued a decree establishing the commemoration of the International Day of Girls in ICT as part of the annual calendar of all students in Guatemala).
Actively communicate with stakeholders and campaign about the practice by, for instance, sending formal letters to ministries (e.g., practice from Azerbaijan), or organizing gender mainstreaming workshops.

Collaborate and partner with other government institutions and stakeholders

Identify institutionalized coordination mechanisms in place relating addressing gender in digital policies (e.g., Chile’s Inter-ministerial Committee on Gender Equality in ICT).
If such mechanism does not exist, consult bilaterally with gender focal points from relevant ministries and other government agencies. Identify dedicated committees (e.g., Burundi’s National Commission for Information Society and the National Gender Council).
Establish partnerships with key stakeholders for the practice implementation (business, civil society, academia, etc.).
Engage with partners at different levels – local (e.g., Digitaler@s Girls programme in Argentina), bilateral, multilateral, and private sector and NGOs (e.g. #eSkills4Girls initiative supported by Germany).
Maintain regular communication with all government institutions and other stakeholders and provide timely support throughout implementation.

Measure impact

Establish a framework to measure effectiveness of practices.
Identify areas where there is room for improvement.
Identify lessons learned for replication and scalability.

Way forward

Collect practices from all the countries under the scope of ITU Regional Offices. This handbook has a global perspective. But the nature and intensity of the challenges faced by women are not identical in all locations. Geographical and social contexts are important in order to design and implement effective gender mainstreaming practices. To gain in granularity, a similar exercise could be carried out at the regional level, collecting practices from all the countries under the scope of the six ITU Regional Offices.

The practices identified in these regional handbooks could be pulled together into a database of gender mainstreaming practices (to be embedded in the BDT website, for instance) that would serve as inspiration for policy-makers around the world, searchable by policy area, type of practice, etc.

Collect data on inter-ministerial coordination mechanisms around gender and ICT. These data can contribute to expand existing data on national collaborative governance, particularly, the data on cooperation with other sector agencies by, for instance, including collaboration with the Ministry of Gender.

Conduct further research on gender in national digital strategies. Additional research is needed, particularly with regards to why highlighted advanced countries did not make references to gender in their national ICT overarching policies or master plans. A similar in-depth analysis could be carried out at the level of national ICT regulations and laws.