Gender Equality and Mainstreaming (GEM) Tech Awards 2016


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Key Note Speech by Anna-Karin Jatfors, Deputy Regional Director, UN Women Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific.

It is a great honor to be here with you this evening, representing UN Women and together with our great partners ITU and a wide network of leading women in technology today as we award the 2016 GEM-TECH honorees. Big congratulations to all of you for making an intentional efforts and being proactive in making sure that women and girls are active participants of the digital world.

Today marks the third year of our commitment together with the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) in holding this global recognition of individuals, organizations and governments empowering women in and through ICTs. For UN Women, this is a key area that we consider tremendously powerful in transforming women’s lives and achieving the Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development. As you know, one of the major shortcomings of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) is that they did not clearly spell out the resources required for implementation. The Sustainable Development (SDGs) attempt to do more comprehensively, in a more meaningful spirit of partnership and collaboration. In this regard, transfer of technology and intellectual property rights are identified as essential means of implementation. Bridging the technological divide is one of the main challenges in implementing the SDGs. Providing access to information, communications, and other technologies could also strengthen transformative processes particularly for women and girls in developing countries.

For the past 3 years, we have showcased many great initiatives by both organizations, companies and individuals. We shared their accomplishments, and we’re still on the way to carrying their good work forward. Today, selected from 311 nominations in over 81 countries, the final winners will join a mission to create and inspire role models that the rest of the world can look upon and learn from. We are very delighted and proud to present this global stage for them.

Empowering women and girls in science and technology at this day and age is not an option but a necessity. We cannot afford to have them underrepresented in this sector. Women are acutely underrepresented in the ICT field. Globally women only make up 15 percent of top decision makers in the technology sector. As you know, this is a fast growing industry that provides enormous opportunities for employment and it is also estimated that 90 percent of future jobs will require ICT skills. We are currently investing heavily on women’s digital literacy and skills and utilizing ICT innovations in elimination of gender based violence, women’s economic and political empowerment. In the future, technological innovation will also lead to gains in efficiency and productivity.

Technology creates entirely new ways of consuming goods and services in the process, facilitating access and use of data. It will also lower the barriers for businesses and create new opportunities for women to create wealth. Already technology has changed the personal and professional environments of workers. However, these dynamics could also exacerbate inequality, particularly in the labor market as technology substitutes for labor. The net displacement of workers by machines could have a detrimental effect on low-skilled workers, particular women who are over represented in sectors such as garment manufcturing and elctronics. So it is critical that we support women to development the right mix of technical and core skills for the future.

UN Women has embarked on the development of two iconic targeted ICT initiatives. One is the virtual school, aiming to provide women and girls, even the most marginalized with digital access to skills and second chance opportunities for millions of girls who have either been deprived or dropped out of formal education systems for one reason or another. The other is a technology-based mobile enterprise platform that would create and facilitate big communities of women entrepreneurs in various sectors across developing countries. All these efforts are not made in isolation, but rather with various partners sharing the same mission and expertise, similar to how we gather here today.

Within Asia and the Pacific Region. We have participated in many great initiatives including the development of a tech-based food ordering platform for informal home- based food vendors in Pakistan (link). We also led the efforts to promote safer public space for women and girls through the use of mobile applications such as the Safe City Hackathon initiative in Philippines (link). In Pakistan (link), UN Women collaborated with the Government of Punjab, Punjab Commission on the Status of Women, and ‘CIRCLE’ (a leading social enterprise working on women and youth entrepreneurship and leadership) to engage youth in developing innovative solutions to enhance women and girls’ public safety and mobility.

We’re also actively seeking partnerships with institutes, corporations and individuals to further develop our work in this thematic area. Asia and pacific is an exciting emerging market with leading IT corporations, and many public and private sectors seeking ICT breakthroughs in their development. It is our responsibility and opportunity to apply a gender lens to these great initiatives.

As we present the 2016 awards to the winners, we want to assure you that was not an easy pick and the winners you’ll see here today have gone above and beyond the status quo to reach this stage. We look forward to giving them more support, resources and opportunities to expand their good work. More importantly, we hope to spread the message and share the successful examples globally. Big congratulations to the winners, finalists, and everyone who joined and contributed to this incredible event.

We celebrate with you, thank you and enjoy the evening!