• Digital gender-gap audit for PH launched

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    A DIGITAL gender report card that measures the Philippines’ progress in closing the digital gender gap was launched by the Foundation for Media Alternatives (FMA) on Thursday.

    The scorecard was developed by the World Wide Web Foundation along with partner organizations from 10 countries.

    According to FMA Executive Director Liza Garcia, an overall score of a country will be based on 14 indicators grouped into five main categories– Internet access and women’s empowerment, relevant content and services, online safety, affordability and digital skills and education.

    At the launching in Quezon City, Garcia presented the processes and results of the scorecard for the Philippines, which gained a 50 percent overall score.

    Out of 10 points, the Philippines only got a score of 4 for Internet access and women’s empowerment, indicating that women in some poor areas of Manila, for example, have used the Internet in seeking information on their rights and to voice out their opinions online.

    For the category of relevant content and services, the country also got a score of 4.

    “The government makes some information about reproductive and sexual health rights and services available but it is often not easy to locate,” the report card read.

    It said only 5 percent of women have access to mobile financial services.

    For online safety, the Philippines got a 7 since specific laws are in place for victims of online or web violence.

    It was noted that law enforcement officers have undergone training on investigating cyber violence against women resulting in arrests in a few cases.

    Laws and practices of law enforcement agencies have prompted the Philippines to at least get an almost perfect score for the third category of the scorecard.

    For affordability, the country got a score of 6 since the Philippines “has the second lowest Internet speed” in the region at 3.2 megabytes per second.

    “In 2015, the Philippines committed resources to establish free nationwide [wi-fi] in public places. A new national broadband plan is due to be adopted… next year,” the scorecard stated.

    The Philippines got 5 points for digital skills and education, the last category of basis for the scorecard, since 79 percent of the country’s public primary and secondary schools lack Internet connectivity.

    According to Garcia, the Philippines’ scorecard can be a “tool” to hold the government accountable in meeting the Sustainable Development Goals, aiming for the SDG gender and Information and Communication Technology (ICT) targets.

    SDG is composed of 17 goals, which set the global development agenda until year 2030, and SDG 5 or gender equality was among the goals that is centralized to the gender-equitable access to ICTs.

    “The scorecard may [also]be used to identify and eventually address gaps in data about women and ICTs in the Philippines [and]overall, the results of the scorecard showed that there is still an existing digital divide in the Philippines and there is still much to be addressed in terms of policies,” Garcia said.

    In response to the score of the Philippines in the scorecard, FMA has initiated to identify concrete steps that the national government can take to address the challenges identified.

    A 5-point action plan is a primary step that would be able to determine what solutions can be able to fill the gaps with the Philippines’ score in the report card.

    The action plan includes integrating gender into Philippines’ national ICT plan; improving Internet affordability and speed; implementing inclusive digital literacy programs; conducting gender audits of government agency websites; and putting an end to online gender-based violence.

    The first point of the action plan is aimed to “incorporate women’s voices” through consultations with the responding agency, Department of Science and Technology, and women’s groups shall be the priority for the new national ICT plan.

    According to the FMA, gender-sensitive language and programs should be included in the ICT plan to increase the score of the Philippines when it comes to Internet access and women’s empowerment.

    Garcia, however, said the FMA plans to use the report card project to push for the agenda included in the 5-point action plan and “influence meaningful policy change.”

    “The scorecard is just the starting point for broader regional and global consultation,” she added.

    Aside from the Philippines, gender audits were also conducted in nine other countries–Kenya, Uganda, Mozambique, Nigeria, Ghana, Egypt, Colombia and Indonesia.

    The FMA and the Web Foundation plans to add more countries for the next round of gender audits. DEMPSEY REYES

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