Despite the rise of digitalisation around the world, women are still under-represented in the IT sector, both at university and in the workplace, and often lack the necessary skills to break into the field. This is where the Women Going Digital project comes in: an online training course designed to give women in developing and emerging countries the opportunity to further their education on topics related to digital transformation, discover new job opportunities and thus contribute to gender equality in the digital world. The course, which is now also available in English, was launched in Namibia in February 2023 via the digital learning platform Atingi.org. Christina Pfandl, Business Scout in Namibia, has been instrumental in the process:
“With Women Going Digital, we want to narrow the digital gap between men and women by training women on topics related to digital transformation and digitalisation and strengthening their knowledge and expertise.” (Christina Pfandl, Business Scout for Development)
“And suddenly everything makes sense “
The online training was developed in 2020 in cooperation with the German-Brazilian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (AHK) in São Paulo as part of the Business Scouts for Development programme. It is implemented by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). The content can be completed asynchronously by participants through online self-study. This paid off in the pilot phase of the project, which took place in the middle of the Corona pandemic. Interest in the first run of the project was huge: 1,000 women aged between 18 and 55 applied, 90 were selected in Brazil and ten took part in Mozambique, which is also Portuguese-speaking. Thanks to the digital delivery of the content, the women were able to integrate the courses into their daily lives. They acquired skills in agile methods, blockchain and 3D printing, information processing, e-commerce and cloud computing, among others, and received a certificate upon successful completion.
After the successful pilot phase, the course was included in the permanent programme of the AHK São Paulo and was also introduced in Spanish by the German Chambers of Commerce Abroad in Argentina and Peru. A total of 454 women have completed the course in Latin America to date. Each time the course is launched in a new language, the specific local contexts and challenges are identified and taken into account to ensure that the content is tailored to the needs and requirements of local women.
With the English translation of the course, women in Africa can now access the content free of charge. The course will also be available in French from the end of April 2023 on the Atingi platform.
A group of 100 Namibian women have also been given the opportunity to be part of the African pilot of the Business Scouts for Development programme. They are being supported by a digital learning agency with weekly check-ins and additional online workshops with women working in IT.
This is also part of the original concept: to complement the multimedia course content in self-study, selected topics are deepened in seminars. Another important component of the programme is the networking of women in the digital economy. To this end, workshops and network meetings are organised to promote exchanges between women and enable them to benefit from the experience of others.
This is well received by the course participants in Namibia. A participant from Ruacana sums it up as follows:
“The simplicity with which the information is presented, combined with self-study at one’s own pace, makes the learning experience less stressful, interesting and inspires one to learn even more than the materials provided. It’s as simple as putting on the right glasses to see clearly the world you live in, and suddenly it all makes sense.”
Selma Amwaalanga, 29
Promoting gender equality in the digital world
The Business Scouts for Development’s plans for further development of the training do not end with the launch of the project in Africa. In the future, the aim is to cooperate with other companies to further increase employment opportunities for women and identify concrete job opportunities.
“The digital age has created unprecedented opportunities for the empowerment of girls and women, but advancing technology also brings new forms of inequality and threats to their rights and well-being. The use of digital technologies varies widely across countries in the Global South. There are also major differences between rural regions and cities. Knowledge and access are central here to evoke and promote equality in the digital space as well.” (Christina Pfandl)
The Women Going Digital project is an important step towards a (digital) world that is more inclusive and equitable by specifically promoting women in a future-relevant sector. The promotion of digital skills and the networking of women in the private sector not only strengthens the position of women in the world of work. Society as a whole also benefits from the new perspectives and innovations that come from broader and more diverse participation in the digital transformation.