Closing the digital gender gap: lessons from the pandemic


This IIED Debates event explored why and how the digital world should consider the needs of both women and men of all ages to enable progress.

Last updated 28 October 2021
Woman speaks on the phone.

In Kenya, ownership and expenditure on mobile phones is greater in men compared to women, contributing to the gender divide (Photo: Barbara Minishi/European Union via FlickrCC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Technology and the internet can be a great enabler. But while easy and cheap access to digital tools and channels has opened opportunities for some during the COVID-19 pandemic, many people still face barriers and are being left behind.

This IIED Debates online event considered how to make a digital world more inclusive and how we can apply gender mainstreaming strategies to digital technology to create equal and better opportunities for women and drive true progress in gender equality.

We all read about new digital tools and channels and the assumption is that these are developments that everyone can enjoy. But is that true?

Does a person in a rural area of Kenya, for example, have access to these tools or access to the internet? And if a young woman wants to take advantage of opportunities or information via digital channels, will it be as easy for her to do that as it would be for a young man?

The pandemic has accelerated the transition to digital with many events, opportunities and sharing of information happening online. This is certainly progress in many ways – but is it sustainable and fair?

Any digital development should give an equal chance to women and men of all ages to participate in work and in their communities, seize opportunities and prepare for the future. If it doesn’t, then there’s an increasing risk that power imbalances will be reinforced, potential will be lost, and some people will get left behind.

At this IIED Debates webinar, speakers shared their experience of these issues and the solutions they are testing in their work.

About the speakers

  • Liz Carlile (moderator) is IIED's director of communications. She is a marketing and communications strategist and leads a team working across the full range of communications channels
  • Grace Natabaalo is a Uganda-based communications specialist and research lead at Caribou Digital, a research and advisory firm that helps clients change the world through building inclusive and ethical digital economies
  • Barry Smith is a researcher in IIED's Climate Change research group. His research focuses on locally-led adaptation, climate finance and using digital technology to engage citizens in climate action
  • Sam Greene is a senior researcher in IIED's Climate Change research group. Sam works on co-developing participatory, gender transformative tools that inform climate-resilient development planning at the local level
  • Maryanne Ochola is head of partnerships and programmes at ShuJaaz Inc, a network of social ventures that connect young people with the information, skills and resources they need to embed in a digital and real-world community
  • Matt Wright is web planning and content manager at IIED. He is a digital communications specialist and manages IIED's online presence across all channels and platforms. Matt implements digital strategies, develops digital content and evaluates its impact

Event coverage

Watch a recording of the event below or on IIED's YouTube channel, where you can also find links to take you straight to the contributions of each of the key speakers.

About IIED Debates

This event is part of the IIED Debates series. Through the convening of expert speakers and external stakeholders, IIED brings together an international community to discuss critical issues.

IIED Debates encompass both physical and digital events, including critical themes, breakfast debriefs and webinars. These events are public and are hosted regularly throughout the year online and when possible in our London and Edinburgh offices.

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Juliette Tunstall ([email protected]), IIED's internal engagement and external events officer