Program seeks Internet use equality for women

Sept. 30, 2013 at 7:23 PM
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BOGOTA, Sept. 30 (UPI) -- More women in the Western Hemisphere's less developed countries are set to benefit from technological equality as IT companies move in to narrow the gender gap between connected men and women without phones or the Internet.

Lack of connectivity presents numerous problems for women, hinders their economic advancement and keeps them vulnerable to personal security issues, new research shows.

U.S. multinational Intel Corp. said its "She Will Connect" program aims to close the technology divide for millions of women around the world, notably in Africa, Latin America and parts of Asia.

Intel's response follows its "Women and the Web" report in January that highlighted the inequalities and other issues lack of Internet connectivity creates for society in emerging markets.

Although Intel's "She Will Connect" initiative will begin in Africa, aiming to reach 5 million women and reduce the gender gap by 50 percent, Latin America is also an early target.

The idea behind the program is to expand digital literacy skills among young women in developing countries. The technological gender gap is the greatest in Africa where the IT firm hopes to work with a diverse group of partners including global and local non-government organizations and governments.

The "Women and the Web" report revealed concrete data on an "enormous" Internet gender gap in the developing world and the social and economic benefits of securing Internet access for women.

Stakeholders were urged to double the number of women and girls online in developing countries in three years. "She Will Connect" aims to provide digital literacy skills to girls and women and push the concept of digital literacy forward through new, innovative and scalable models.

"Girls and women are being left behind," Shelly Esque, vice president of Intel's corporate affairs group and president of the Intel Foundation, said. "We believe that closing the Internet gender gap has tremendous potential to empower women and enrich their lives as well as all the lives they touch."

In conjunction with "She Will Connect," Intel pledged a 2013 Clinton Global Initiative Commitment to Action. This year's U.N. International Day of the Girl on Oct. 11 emphasizes the importance of girls' education worldwide.

"When we think about what the world is going to look like in the coming 20 years, we have to do more to make sure that women as well as men, girls as well as boys are empowered to use new technology to further their own aspirations," Hillary Clinton said at the Clinton Global Initiative 2013 annual meeting last week.

"She Will Connect" will test a new model that integrates digital literacy with gender and development programming targeting women and girls.

In Latin America, Intel is partnering with several governments and organizations providing digital literacy training with a special focus on fostering entrepreneurial skills in Colombia, Mexico and Peru. The IT giant's headquarters are in Santa Clara, Calif.

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