Closing the gender divides for digital health in South Africa
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T1: What are the current issues affecting gender equality in developing economies like South Africa?
T2: How do you think these gender equality issues could be approached? Why?
T3: What do you think the impact of gender divides could have on digital transformation?
T4: Why do you think gender equality in health is a global issue for sustainable development?
CT (Closing Thoughts): Is there anything you feel is important to add to this conversation?
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Our public transcript will be recorded by Symplur
Today, there is a concerning lack of women’s leadership in the rapidly growing field of digital health. This underrepresentation in this space has critical implications for women’s health and the industry as a whole. We need women in the room at every step of the process — as designers, entrepreneurs, mentors, and investors. When women’s voices are heard, we can ensure that new digital platforms are designed in ways that are effective and engaging, and successfully target women’s health issues. 
ICT’s can also provide more affordable and inclusive educational opportunities for girls, particularly in the area of the right to health. For example, women and girls who are unable to physically access information about sexual and reproductive or mental health information or services because of the distance of services, stigma, immobility, bias or even legislation requiring others’ authorization before accessing health care services — in those circumstances, online access to critical information and advice can empower them.  Online information can take the form of a simple hospital website which is currently limited in the South African public sector, or it can also be accessible through a mobile application or a messaging service. Universal design principles, however, would be key when considering diverse groups like disability, ethnicity, digital literacy skills and poverty so we innovate meaningful solutions.
Women and girls are nearly 15 percent less likely to be online than men worldwide, but experts say this digital gender divide can be bridged through education, ensuring access and improving skills. According to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) report on women’s entrepreneurship published in 2017, Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest average female entrepreneurship activity in the world at nearly 26 percent. Yet many of these businesses are informal or offline. Trends for women and girls participation online are not promising, according to an ITU Report “Women in Tech: The Facts”, the percentage of women in computing jobs has been declining. In 1991, women held 36 percent of these jobs. As of 2015, that number had dropped to 25 percent, and for women of colour that number was even lower. With 90 percent of jobs expected to require ICT skills (according to a World Economic Forum study), enhancing women’s and girls’ access to and use of information and communication technology can help close the digital gender gap and empower women to take leadership of their own life and claim their rights.
The gender digital gap is evident in the corporate world too. In South Africa, women make up 5 percent of CEOs in ICT companies as compared to 22.5 percent in the United States. Young girls who desire a career in technology rarely have support from their families or their schools, and without encouragement, they run the risk of losing interest in this field. Studies have also shown that despite there being fewer talented women in technology than men, many of those who are qualified are still not hired. In South Africa, 22 percent of computer science graduates are women, yet only 2.9 percent of them receive jobs in the field of technology. 
During the digital health transformation, it is imperative that no woman is left behind. Not only in the corporate and political realms, but in every part of civil society. We need to remember that online we are all equal digital citizens participating in a global world. This evolving era of the internet remains uncertain for everyone. It is therefore imperative to reframe our conversations about the past so that we create meaningful ways for this tool to promote a successful, peaceful, healthy, abundant and empowering future for all of us.
Dedicated to my dear friend Shariefa Allie-Nieftagodien – 20 March 1964 – 12 August 2016
Thank you for your tireless, visionary leadership and commitment to promoting women empowerment and gender equality in South Africa. You touched so many women’s lives through your dedication to teaching them how to believe in themselves and to live the difference they wanted to see in this world, and for that, you will always be sorely missed.
Healthcare social media hashtags and communities related to Women in Global Health IT:
#LancetWomen, #WomeninHIT, #healthITchicks, #womeningh
The chat session is open to everyone to participate, however, our panel experts bring a unique set of perspectives relating to the topic
ICT Expert – Consultant Project Administrator for Public and Private sector
Student and Healthcare Social Media Expert
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