Tuesday, March 5, 2024

US gov’t-backed forum tackles gender mobile usage gap in PH

The United States government, through the US Agency for International Development (USAID), recently led a virtual dialogue on increasing access to digital technology in the Philippines, particularly among women.

Speakers and reactors from DICT, USAID, Philippine Commission on Women, GSMA, and the public and private sectors engaged more than 300 participants at an online dialogue on the prevailing gender mobile usage gap worldwide and in the Philippines

According to the Global Systems of Mobile Communications Association (GSMA), 52 million Filipinos living in areas already covered by mobile broadband do not use mobile Internet. 

A significant number of them are women who face barriers such as handset and data cost, limited access to networks and electricity, and safety and security concerns that include online harassment and fraud.

More than 300 participants attended the dialogue last June 27 to discuss issues related to digital inclusion, such as the gender mobile Internet adoption and usage gap and key ICT policy challenges and opportunities to increase women’s mobile Internet use.

“We are at the cusp of a rapid digital transformation where digital devices and the Internet have become an integral part of our day-to-day lives,” said USAID Philippines Regional Office of Acquisition and Assistance director Jennifer Crow. 

“USAID remains committed to supporting the Philippine government in building a future where digital technology promotes inclusive growth, fosters resilient and democratic societies, and empowers all, including the most vulnerable.”

Speakers shared policy examples and innovations from other countries such as lowering consumer taxes and import duties on handsets, offering flexible payment terms for underserved customer segments, providing targeted Internet service and smartphone subsidies for women entrepreneurs and female-headed households, and increasing digital literacy.  

The dialogue also highlighted existing policies and programs that support digital inclusion in the Philippines which include the Updated Philippine Development Plan, the Updated Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment Plan, the National Broadband Plan, the Free Wi-Fi for All Program, and the Tech4ED Project.

To help bridge the digital divide, USAID said it has been assisting the government in automation and digitization efforts and supports community networks to expand low-cost Internet access for underserved communities.

Its Better Access and Connectivity (BEACON) project, USAID said, has helped improve the country’s ICT and logistics infrastructure; strengthen the regulatory, business, and innovation environment; and bolster cybersecurity. 

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