#eSkills4Girls is an initiative started under the German G20 presidency with the aim to tackle the existing gender digital divide in particular in low income and developing countries. With a joint statement on #eSkills4Girls published at the G20 summit in Hamburg in 2017, the Heads of State and Government of the G20 member states agreed to take action to close the gender digital divide. The specific objectives are to globally increase women’s and girls’ access to and participation in the digital world and to boost relevant education and employment opportunities in emerging and developing countries (see here for details). During the G20 presidency of Argentina in 2018, the digital inclusion of women has also been a priority topic. Initiatives such as #eSkills4Girls and EQUALS (see here for details) have been recognized in the Ministerial Declaration focused on the global digital economy.

The gender digital divide

The digital transformation is changing our world and the ways we live, work and learn. Particularly people in developing countries are at risk of being excluded from the benefits of the digital transformation and most of them are girls and women. Women are not benefitting equally from the potentials of the digital transformation: Worldwide, more than 250 million fewer women than men have access to the internet even though being online is one of today’s key requirements for social and economic participation.

Barriers to the digital inclusion of women are generally connected to a set of interrelated factors: availability of infrastructure, financial constraints and institutional contexts. But, the digital divide is not only a matter of matter of access to infrastructure and adequate frameworks, it is also a matter of digital skills. Digital skills and knowledge of digital technologies enable women to shape their own digital future – as learners, as users, as employees, as entrepreneurs, and as leaders.

Recent data from the International Telecommunication Union shows that digital skills divides across lines of gender are deep, wide and growing. In many national contexts, men are four times more likely than women to have advanced ICT skills such as the ability to program computers, and similar divides are apparent for basic tasks such as using email or a spreadsheet. These skills gaps carry serious repercussions for employment. Leading consulting companies estimate that 90% of all future jobs will have a digital component. Despite this, the number of women choosing to pursue technology studies and careers has been declining globally since the 1980s.

The acquisition of relevant digital skills for women is often restricted by multiple factors at the individual, family, school and socio-cultural level eventually leading to the underrepresentation of women in digital education and the tech industry. On another note, greater female inclusion online and in the digital sector can also turn into a threat for womens’ digital privacy and security, manifesting in cyber violence, sexual harassment and gender discrimination.

The #eSkills4Girls initiative aims to raise awareness on the empowering and disempowering nature of digital technologies for women and girls and considers women´s participation as key for an inclusive economy and development.

Background of the platform

The #eSkills4Girls platform is a joint project by G20 members – backed by a consortium of including UNESCOUN WomenITU, OECD,  the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ).

The platform aims to collect and disseminate information and knowledge on the digital inclusion of women. It showcases current initiatives as well as good practices and policy recommendations that are playing an essential part in helping to get more women online and into the tech sector.

The online platform particularly addresses decision-makers of G20 members and governments of low income and developing economies. However, it also serves to provide a valuable tool for knowledge exchange between practitioners, non-governmental organisations, international organisations and academia. The wider public is addressed by offering a comprehensive overview of existing initiatives, programs and projects and by introducing successful women and girls as role models.