by MTHULISI SIBANDA
JOHANNESBURG – A TECHNOLOGY executive has encouraged all stakeholders in the digital economy to build programmes and initiatives to narrow the digital gender divide.
Spawn Fan, Chief Executive Officer of Huawei South Africa, made the recommendation as the country’s Women’s Month (August) fell during one of the most challenging periods in its history – the global coronavirus (COVID-19).
He noted that as South Africa emerged from the lockdown, the country was facing greater inequality than ever before.
However, Fan pointed out to the power of information and communication technology (ICT) to reduce this inequality.
Fan said the divide was not just about fewer opportunities.
“It also threatens women’s lives,” he said.
A recent report by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) found gender inequalities in the access to communications technology and in its design, and how it is used in disaster risk management.
Fan noted that women, already disadvantaged through digital exclusion, rural marginalization and gender inequalities, faced yet another risk if they lived in disaster-prone areas.
“In the workplace, the situation is not much better,” Fan said.
According to industry association Women In Tech, of an estimated 236 000 tech jobs in South Africa, only 23 percent, or 56 000 of them, were held by women.
Globally, the World Economic Forum (WEF) reports that the largest gender gaps are to be found in areas such as cloud computing, engineering, data and artificial intelligence – the emerging jobs driving the new economy
“Fixing this will take real commitment, but the Fourth Industrial Revolution offers us opportunities to make a big difference,” Fan said.
Huawei has set a quota for 50 percent female intake in its bursary scheme, graduate initiative and Seeds for the Future development programme to ensure greater representation of women and girls.
Huawei also supports Bring A Girl Child To Work and Girls In ICT initiatives.
It has partnered with the Department of Communication and Digital Technologies to deliver a tailor-made 5G course for the department’s women staff, complete with training in IoT, Cloud and Fibre-to-X through the Huawei Learning Centre.
“I encourage stakeholders in all industries to consider how they can narrow the digital gender divide,” Fan said.
– CAJ News