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Empowering women amidst digitalization

Last month, I was invited by the Asian Development Bank’s (ADB) International Women Committee (IWC) to kick-off their Keynote Speaker Series for this year.

The IWC is an informal committee at the ADB that promotes internal dialogue within the ADB community and supports ADB’s International Women Staff. For their Keynote Speaker Series, they invite notable women profiles to talk and discuss various themes. I was asked to discuss efforts to promote women empowerment in the digital economy.

Foremost, I underscored the findings of the Alliance for Affordable Internet that 32 countries, including the Philippines, have missed out on US$1 trillion in GDP as a result of women’s exclusion from the digital world.

The digital gender divide has become apparent with the inevitable pivot to digital transformation. For instance, a study by the International Finance Corp. (IFC) showed that women entrepreneurs could better compete if they have the necessary digital selling skills as well as access to credit, but 61 percent of Filipino women still do not own a bank account and were not part of the formal economy.

Moreover, in the Women in ICT Development Index (WIDI) of the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT), while 86 percent of Filipino women have access to internet whether at home or elsewhere, only 26 percent used it to search on education and government services, while less than 20 percent used it to search for employment and business opportunities. And while 55 percent of women purchased goods or services online, only six percent sold goods or services online.

Embracing digital transformation is now inescapable. The pivot towards digitalization is now a necessity. I believe government agencies and policymakers are already aware of this, it’s just a matter of making sure we prioritize it. If we want to get things done, we really have to put twice the effort. For instance, the DICT is pushing for the immediate approval of the proposed E-Governance bills that were filed before the two Houses of Congress. The E-Governance bill will be crucial in transforming governance to one that is digital, anti-red tape, and bureaucratic efficient. We provide the necessary support to Congress to ensure that the E-Governance measure will soon be passed and enacted into law.

E-Governance is also crucial in promoting digital inclusion because through this we can make public transactions more efficient through digitalization, streamline and reduce red tape, minimize the need to fall in line in various government offices, and reduce the need to skip work in order to get certification or clearances. It also promotes the use of ICT in improving access to high quality government information and services across multiple channels.

It is imperative to make sure that in the shift to the new normal, no one is left behind by equipping Filipinos with the tools and skills they need to thrive in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

As many parts of the country is still not connected to the internet, this motivates us to go further, to connect every barangay in the country to the cyberspace. Access to the internet means access to opportunities. We want to make sure that no Filipino, regardless of age and gender, is left behind in the transition to the digital age.

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