Copyright: Riccardo Mayer

Connect women to the internet to end poverty

JulietGeneral, women empowerment

How much do you take internet access for granted?

If your internet was suddenly disconnected for a period of over a week, would you start to feel anxious and uncomfortable. Feel you were missing out on things? Maybe even start to lose your sense of humour? Would you feel your rights were being violated if someone turned off free internet access in your home town?

And for those of us over the age of 40, how much have our lives changed as a result of having access to the internet – it’s truly one of the most life-changing technologies ever invented. Not only do we buy things from all over the world at a more competitive price, we can work virtually, communicate with people in different continents, access the best knowledge and latest scientific data and undergo top university courses for free, but we can also play, trade, work, learn, share, grow and enhance almost every aspect of our lives using the internet.

The internet changes lives

Try to imagine how much faster people who live in poverty can develop when they get access to the knowledge, the resources, the contact and the opportunities that the internet can provide them. Economists estimate that increasing access to the internet could generate US $2.2 Trillion growth and create 160 million new jobs. It could lift 160 million out of poverty, and save the lives of 2.5 million people through improving health care. Bringing the internet to people in need could completely revolutionise their lives, economies and future prospects.

Women have less access to the internet than men

Yet most people in the world – some 3.9 billion people in developing countries – don’t have access to the internet. And once again, its women who have the least access to the internet. There are 200 million fewer women than men who own a mobile phone in low and middle income countries. There are 45% fewer women who can access the internet in sub-Saharan Africa, compared to men.

It’s time to change that.

In 2015, world leaders committed to an ambitious set of UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty and hunger, bring education, health care, and energy to all, and protect the planet against climate change and environmental disaster. One of the global targets is to connect everyone living in poverty to the internet by 2020 (part of SDG 9, which focuses industry, innovation and infrastructure).

So join me in supporting the campaigns to ensure that women in Africa – and other developing countries –  get better access to the internet, and to ensure that women have the resources they need to take full advantage of the internet when they do get online. This isn’t a simple case of just supplying mobile phones and data access – though this alone is changing lives. There is also a need to empower women with skills and knowledge to know how to use the internet, content that they can understand and use, solar power or other energy to enable them to recharge their devices, and the freedom and support to be able to go online, learn, connect and grow with people and businesses around the world.

Join us in making this happen!

I’m working with a number of projects to make this happen. The Women’s Enterprise Success Alliance and Social Enterprise Sisterhood are conducting an international online business mentoring programme (Sister2Sister) to help women in business in Africa become role models – and mentors – to their colleagues, so that they can help other women in business. Wild Mercury coordinates the Google Developer Group in Zimbabwe and provides pro-bono training in web skills and development and GIS to students and future leaders in Zimbabwe. Empowering a Billion Women by 2020 works to bring relevant content and connection to women in developing countries through free internet access provided in collaboration with ChangeCorp and Facebook.

If you’d like to know how you can get involved, please get in touch.

#Connect2Empower #SocialEnterpriseSisterhood #WESAZimbabwe #empowerabillion #EBWLegacy #Sister2Sister