Executive summary

Many women around the world find it more difficult than men to participate in the financial, educational, social and health resources of the digital technology-driven world. While digital gender divide has been narrowing across all regions in the world, women remain digitally marginalized in many of the world’s low-income countries.

Representatives of ministries in charge of information and communication technologies (ICTs) and other relevant government agencies of different countries around the world identified successful gender responsive policies, strategies, programmes and/or projects put in place by their own governments. These “successful practices” provided the basis for the analysis and recommendations in this handbook with information on what has been done, how it was implemented, and what was the impact.

Mainstreaming gender in digital policies happens in developed, developing and least developed countries

Practices in all six International Telecommunication Union (ITU) regions rarely cover only one policy area; they typically address more than one. Practices supporting women and girls are not exclusive to the ICT sector; they can be identified in other areas such as health. 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.

Practices mainstreaming gender in digital policies take different shape

Practices can be 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).

Factors behind successful gender mainstreaming practices are multiple

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.

Practices are often supported by governments and are based on collaboration and partnerships

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 are based on partnerships between government, private sector, international and regional organizations, and local institutions.

Mainstreaming gender in digital policies does not seem to have a specific institutional set-up

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 mechanisms around gender in digital policies serves to connect ministries

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.

Three ways to mainstream gender in digital policies

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 least developed countries (LDCs) in this Handbook.

By putting in place 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.

And by setting gender criteria for the assessment of project proposals. This approach has been adopted in practices reported by Australia and by the State of Palestine1.

Checklist for policy-makers

The following actionable checklist outlines the process of mainstreaming gender in digital policies, based on 27 practices analysed in this Handbook:
• gather data and conduct research;
• define a gender mainstreaming practice;
• align the practice with national strategic documents;
• allocate resources;
• identify focal points in key government institutions and consult with stakeholders;
• collaborate and partner with other government institutions and stakeholders;
• measure impact.

1 *The State of Palestine participates in ITU work under Resolution 99 (Rev. Dubai, 2018) of the Plenipotentiary Conference.