TODAY, innovations in the financial services sector are increasingly recognized for their acceleration of access to science, technology and innovation for all. However, growing inequalities are becoming evident in the context of digital skills and access to technologies with women being left behind due to this digital gender divide.
From mobile banking ventures that facilitate women’s entrepreneurship to e-learning platforms that take classrooms to individuals, social innovations have the potential to serve as powerful tools to provide opportunities, break trends and increase awareness.
The impact of inequality between the genders has been most visible in the tech industry, where women are severely underrepresented. In Cameroon, women comprise 18% of the IT sector, with 60% paid lower than men and only 3% having executive posts.
Bringing women into technology results in more creative solutions and has greater potential for innovations that meet women’s needs and promote gender equality.
By contrast, excluding women from the digital world comes with massive costs. The UN Women’s Gender Snapshot 2022 report shows women’s exclusion from the digital world has shaved $1 trillion USD from the gross domestic product of low and middle-income countries in the last decade—a loss that will grow to $1.5 trillion by 2025 without action.
Women’s woes in Cameroon are largely driven by multidimensional poverty. The country is currently ranked 141st out of 189 countries on gender equality.
According to the World Bank, Cameroon’s number of people living in poverty has risen since 2007. The ongoing cost of living crisis is expected to worsen national inflation.
However, this is changing as financial sector innovations bring financial inclusion to many marginalized communities in Sub-Saharan Africa. For instance, international remittances now provide positive solutions, helping alleviate the financial divide.
Through global digital payments company WorldRemit, many women in Cameroon can now receive money from their relatives abroad using various payout methods such as mobile money and bank transfer. Women in Cameroon now have access to technologies that enable financial accessibility nationwide.
Additionally, research demonstrates that women’s financial inclusion promotes greater equality and societal well-being as women channel a significant share to their children’s nutrition, clothing, health, and education.
Considering all this, it is equally important for digital products and services to be designed with and for girls using research information and gender analysis to meet their realities. Digital solutions, products and content tend to be developed for a ‘default’ user and fail to consider, for example, the connectivity, data limitations and devices women have access to.
As technologies improve and advance, we must ensure they are more accessible, as the need for inclusive, transformative technology and digital education is crucial for a sustainable future.