TUESDAY, March 05, 2024

Filling the three gaps: how to help women reach their digital potential

Filling the three gaps: how to help women reach their digital potential

Despite efforts to address it, the digital divide looms large in much of the world.

According to the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), more than 40% of the global population is completely cut off from the Internet. In addition, millions have a connection but lack the skills to make use of it. In Asia-Pacific, according to the APNIC Foundation, the total Internet adoption rate in the region remains below half of the total population at 48.4%. By 2023, it’s estimated this will increase to 72% (3.1 billion users), leaving more than a quarter of the region’s population still disconnected.

Women are disproportionately affected by this digital divide. Especially in poorer countries, 90% of adolescent females and young women between the ages of 15 and 24 do not use the Internet at all. That compares to 78% of adolescent boys and young men in the same age group. The South Asian region exhibits the biggest disparity, favoring adolescent boys and young men by 27 percentage points.

Moreover, even among people who have an Internet connection, digital skills are much less prevalent among adolescent girls and young women than among young men and adolescent boys. Across 32 countries analyzed by UNICEF, for every 100 young males who have digital skills, only 65 females do.

Gap #1: Skills 
Indeed, the gap in skills and knowledge is just one of three major gaps that currently exacerbate what is now referred to as the gender digital divide.

To help close the skills gap, Huawei Thailand offers the latest ICT training classes through the ITU’s “Girls in ICT Project,” with a focus on network, cloud, and cybersecurity knowledge. To encourage girls to begin STEM careers, we will also organize career seminars where students can speak with ICT veterans and even arrange internship opportunities where girls can learn about the different STEM careers they might pursue. 


Last year, Huawei began collaborating with the ITU to organize "Walk into ICT Industry,” an event aimed at helping youth understand the latest technology trends and applications. More than 20 students from all over Thailand were invited to visit the Huawei Customer Solution Innovation and Integration Experience Center (CSIC) in Bangkok, and to receive digital skills training provided by Huawei’s ASEAN Academy in Malaysia, Thailand, and Indonesia. 

Such training not only helps women advance, but also helps countries acquire the skill workforces they will need for the future. For example, it is estimated that the world needs about 3m more cyber security professionals than it has. Yet women make up only about one-quarter of the world’s cyber security workforce. 

Last year, in partnership with Thailand’s National Cyber Security Agency (NCSA) and others, Huawei held the first “Women: Thailand Cyber Top Talent” competition, offering prize money to the winners totalling more than 200,000 THB. The contest aimed to raise awareness of cybersecurity, empower women, and increase the number of cybersecurity workers in the ICT industry. 

Gap #2: Infrastructure 
The second gap to be filled is the “digital infrastructure and connectivity gap.” ICT infrastructure is a vital component for ensuring that everyone gets access to the Internet. To this end, Huawei is working with partners to improve last-mile connectivity reaches more households. 

Wireless Fiber provides high-speed connectivity to cover the “last mile” between the main data cable and an individual home or office. Wireless is easier to deploy because you don’t have to lay down cable, making it the perfect solution where cable is unavailable or impractical. For instance, a young female researcher in Chulalongkorn University is using Huawei routers (CPE) to ensure stable internet access when she travels around the country to conduct technology tests and experiments. 
Fiber can provide a cost-effective solution for low-income families seeking connectivity at an entry level; basic connectivity to satisfy the main requirements for average home broadband use; and professional-level connectivity for large families or businesses, supporting data-hungry applications such as Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality, and high-resolution 4K video. 

IN 2021, Huawei, NBTC, and ITU collaborated on the Giga Thailand whitepaper under the theme “Digital Infrastructure Benefits Everyone.” Huawei will keep working on this direction with the aim of enabling the ITU Connect 2030 Agenda.

Gap #3: Applications 
The third and final gap to close is the “application gap.” Without good applications, Internet connectivity generates little value. Under the Universal Service Obligation project, Huawei is supporting remote education solutions and 5G telehealth and telemedicine applications so that these crucial applications are available anytime, anywhere. The company plans to bring girls from its “Girls in ICT 2023” project to experience these solutions, such as Fiber to the Room and Intelligent Photovoltaics showcase.

These and other efforts are in line with Huawei’s mission to “Grow in Thailand, Contribute to Thailand,” and to help the country move towards a future digital in which everyone is fully connected.