SEATTLE — Oprah and Bono, representing Girl Effect and ONE respectively, are working to remove poverty for women worldwide. Although working separately, this famous duo’s dedication and determination provides inspiration for other advocates and hope for women currently living without access to the affordable internet, technological resources or mobile education.
Oprah Winfrey’s Girl Effect is determined to remove poverty, empower young women and change the world. Specifically, this project aims to build confidence in adolescent women by providing them with access to the resources and education that everyone deserves.
One of Girl Effect’s main programs of focus is Technology Enabled Girl Ambassadors (TEGA). TEGA is a girl-operated mobile research tool that enables women to collect honest and meaningful data that will better their lives. Since TEGA is a grassroots data-collection tool, ambassadors help increase community awareness to current technologies while promoting mobile learning. With an average age of 18-24, TEGA ambassadors undergo a three-month mobile training course to become certified qualitative and quantitative digital interviewers.
Through TEGA, young women are leading the way in using technology to better understand their communities, while simultaneously helping their communities to better understand technology. Data collected can be used to help reduce poverty and move towards universal affordable internet access for all. Currently, TEGA is operational in Northern Nigeria. Within the next 12 months, the program plans to expand to India, Rwanda, Ethiopia, and Indonesia.
When it comes to gender and technology, access to the internet is not spread evenly. Women living in the world’s poorest countries are 31 percent less likely to have access to the internet than men and, according to the International Telecommunications Union, the digital gender gap in Africa rose to 23 percent in 2016, from just below 21 percent in 2013.
ONE, co-founded by U2 singer Bono, is a global advocacy organization with more than seven million members committed to taking action to end extreme poverty. The organization is focused on helping women in developing countries obtain affordable internet access; because if the gender connectivity gap does not close, the next generation of women in these countries will miss out on the education, employment and social opportunities that come with being connected.
ONE believes that “the internet is critical to sharing new ideas, fighting injustice, and helping create new jobs – with it people can achieve extraordinary things.” The organization is urging people to take action by pledging their name and voice and committing to make the gender connectivity gap a thing of the past. With these efforts, women in developing countries will have access to heath and nutrition reminders via text, as well as the ability to be better prepared for storms and other natural disasters by using weather apps and mobile sharing.
Similarly, in 2015 the U.N. set a goal of obtaining universal affordable internet access in the world’s least developed countries by 2020. But progress is slow, and without significant change in the rate of implementation, developing countries may not see access to affordable internet until almost 2040. In fact, over half the world’s population is still offline, and 70 percent of people living in the world’s least developed countries cannot afford a basic broadband connection.
Additionally, according to the Alliance for Affordable Internet 2015-2016 Affordability Report, “women are 50 percent less likely than men to use the internet in poor urban communities”. Clearly, there is much more work to be done, but efforts from organizations like Girl Effect and ONE are leading the way to bridge the technological gender divide and create a “new normal with and for girls”.
– Ashley Henyan