Renee Wittemyer is Intel’s Director of Social Impact.
Some moments must be captured on camera. For me—this was one of them. Our new program for girls and women (that we have been tirelessly working on for months at Intel) was about to be featured and launched onstage at the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) by Secretary Hillary Clinton (one of the world’s biggest champions for women’s economic empowerment). I stood backstage with Intel’s Vice President of Corporate Affairs, Shelly Esque as she got ready to go out onstage. That’s when I realized, if I wanted to capture this moment, I needed to be on the other side of that stage in the audience immediately. So I hurried into the plenary, moved as close as I could to the stage to get my photo (read: this entailed drastic measures like crawling past Madeline Albright to get into the right spot next to the CGI photographers). And I successfully documented this remarkable moment with my phone.
Secretary Clinton announced three new commitments to girls and women of which Intel was part of all three. She talked about Intel’s new commitment to bridge the gender and technology gap for millions of young women in Africa. She said, “When we think about what the world is going to look like in the coming 20 years, we have to do more to make sure that women as well as men, girls as well as boys are empowered to use new technology to further their own aspirations.”
Our new program, She Will Connect, is a new initiative to reduce the gender and technology gap around the world. In January of this year, we released a report called “Women and the Web” which identified the gender gap in Internet access for women in developing countries. In places like Sub Saharan Africa, our research found almost 45% fewer women than men are online. We found that women face many challenges and barriers to getting online including—a lack of familiarity with technologies, lack of awareness of what the Internet is and how it can help them; lack of affordability and availability of devices and broadband; and engrained cultural norms that dictate what women should and should not do. Our report put out a call to action to all stakeholders (private sector, government, NGOs, civil society) to double the number of women online in developing countries. She Will Connect is Intel’s stake in the ground of what we will do to bridge the gender and technology gap. We will start in Africa where the gap is the greatest and scale globally to other countries.
What is particularly exciting to me is that we are building on our existing training programs and innovating on the concept of how digital literacy skills can be learned by young women. We are testing new models that integrate increased internet access with gender and development programming. We are developing a new online gaming platform that will enable young women to learn individually or with their peers across devices- mobile phones, tablets, and PCs. We will also provide women with safe, online access to communities and networks through World Pulse, where women can exchange ideas, find support and mentorship, stay connected, and search user-generated content.
To reach millions of women, we will work with our partners around the world including global and local nonprofits and governments. This includes multiple stakeholders like World Pulse, CARE, World Vision, Telecentre.org, and many more organizations depending on the country. Bridging the Internet gap can empower and enrich lives by providing women with greater voice of opinion, education and economic opportunities, political participation, and access to knowledge and support networks. Together, we are taking on a massive endeavor but by leveraging our respective strengths bridging this gender and technology gap becomes possible.