“A woman with a laptop can be more powerful than a man with a gun,” said Jensine Larsen on stage at the Social Good Summit on September 21, the eve of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) week. Larsen, the founder of the global online network for women World Pulse, was sharing the words of World Pulse member Iryna Amyelina, and reflecting on how the the platform harnesses the power of digital media to give women across the globe a unified voice. The audience applauded thunderously when Larsen recited the quote, and with good reason. Through partnerships with the Global Press Institute and the OpEd Project, World Pulse’s citizen journalism and digital empowerment program “Voices of Our Future,” teaches technical, multimedia journalism skills, provides personal mentoring, and facilitates publication opportunities, as well as opportunities to connect with grassroots women leaders.
Beyond grassroots movements, social media and mobile connectivity have undoubtedly empowered women socially and economically in a number of countries. Information and communication technologies provide women and girls with improved access to healthcare, education, job training, and participation in their government. Because women invest in their communities and families, investing in the empowerment and connectivity of women promotes the economic development of both men and women. According to the report The Social Wisdom of Wired Women Around the World by MSLGROUP, more than half of the women surveyed in the U.S., U.K., Brazil, and in urban areas of China, said technology has “made their lives more manageable,” and nearly 80 percent of them go to the Internet first when seeking information.
However, not all women are wired in this way, which is why World Pulse started the Women Weave the Webcampaign, a crowdsourcing initiative engaging hundreds of grassroots women from more than 70 countries. The campaign’s goal is to generate recommendations on improving digital access, literacy, and online empowerment for women around the world.
“When we put the tools into women’s hands, shared Larsen. “This is the fastest way we’re going to get a sustainable society,” declared Larsen.
How can technology companies support the worldwide wired women movement?
Some of the suggestion that have been made via Women Weave the Web include the following.
1. Develop web sites, mobile apps, and software that make use of non-English and native languages.
2. Bring together female IT professionals to better represent the technology needs of women and girls.
3. Include disabled populations in the design of technology and related training.
4. Implement the use of website safety and security ratings.
5. Monitor and police online harassment that prevents women from fully expressing themselves in open forums
The call to action to bring digital connectivity to women across the globe was a permeating theme throughout all of UNGA. During the Clinton Global Initiative, Group Special Mobile Association (GSMA) and its partners announced their commitment to develop the Connected Women program to increase the role of women in the mobile economy. According to GSMA, women are 21 percent less likely to own a phone in low and middle income nations. The goal of the Connected Women program is to generate information about the socio-economic benefits of greater mobile inclusion for women ranging from tech industry leaders and employers to consumers.
How much will a wired women’s movement combat injustice such as poverty, discrimination and human right violations?
The metrics are still being gathered. But there is no denying the power women can have when they’re able to cultivate a collective intelligence online and offline. I’ve always believed that one of the most impactful exercises a woman can do to influence her community is write. Through distributing stories and insights online, a global tribe of women can move mountains.
This post was originally published on Cisco's Technology News Site.