By The Numbers: The Sad State of Women and ICT in Colombia, and Why to Fix It

Colombian women have lower levels of access and ownership than men in all areas related to ICT. Millions lack access to computers, Internet and basic cell phones. This is largely due to cultural factors, a higher incidence of poverty, and rural residence. Many of the programs at MinTIC have helped increase the number of women using ICTs, however it is essential that for the government’s Vive Digital Plan 2014-2018, all components of the digital ecosystem—which are interconnected— integrate women in order to maximize the potential of technology for prosperity.

For this, it is essential to begin to collect and analyze gender and gepgraphically disaggregated data. The 2 major reports on this topic are severely lacking: “Digital Culture Colombia 2013” never mentions women, and the study “TechTracker” Ipsos-Napoleon Franco covers only Colombians living in cities of more than 200,000 people. As the UNDP says, without data, there is no visibility; without visibility, there is no priority.

DIAGNOSIS: WOMEN AND ICTS IN COLOMBIA

• 57% of urban women in Colombia use the Internet daily (versus 61% of men). Only 38% of rural Colombians (men and women) use the Internet.
• 33% of urban women in Colombia have smartphones (versus 43% of men). Only 16% of rural Colombians have smartphones.
• About 4-5% of the professionals of the IT industry in Colombia are women.
• Only 13.7% of ICT entrepreneurs registered with MinTIC’s Apps.co program are women.
• 11% of students studying Computer and Systems Engineering at the University of the Andes are women.
• 38% of the MinTIC’s Digital Talent 2013 beneficiaries are women.

EFFECTS OF THIS SITUATION

(1) Effects of ICT Industry:

The lack of talent for technology positions, which prevents growth. The ICT sector is growing in size and importance in Colombia, but the number of graduates (men and women) in Computer Systems is falling 5% annually. In addition, the low number of female graduates continues to fall. According to MinTIC’s own studies, if the ICT industry grows at 20% annually, by 2018 there will be a deficit of more than 93,000 computer engineers. By not focusing on women, Colombia is not using half the talent in the country to cover this gap.

The lack of diversity in teams, which prevents the success and competitiveness of Colombia’s Colombia’s tech industry. According to Dow Jones and the Harvard Business Review, startups with women are more likely to succeed, and the presence of gender diversity in the teams is shown to improve success.

(2) Effects on Women and Families:

Loss of access to services, support and online opportunities: including education, employment, new sales markets, social services, health services and domestic violence support. This is particularly important given the vulnerability of women: In Colombia, 56.1% of low-income people are women. 32% of households are headed by women, of whom 76% are single, separated or widowed. Of families in extreme poverty, 43% are headed by women.

(3) Effects on economic growth in Colombia:

The slowdown in economic growth. According to the World Bank, the economic progress of women promotes overall economic growth of a country, up to 9% of GDP in Latin America.

IMPORTANCE OF PROMOTING ICT FOR WOMEN

(1) Legal Importance

• The National Policy for Gender Equality for Women is a commitment that is enshrined in the National Development Plan of Colombia. It generates an obligation to ensure the comprehensive and interdependent human rights of women and gender equality.

(2) Social Importance

• According to the UN, the ability of women to access income, technology and paid work improves the welfare of children more than men’s access to the same resources.
• Reduction of poverty among women is key to the reduction of poverty in rural areas, reducing child mortality, and child nutrition and survival.

(3) Economic Importance

• Women in ICT enhance growth and competitiveness in the industry.
• According to the World Bank, economic growth is faster when the education and employment of men and women are equal.

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