IGF 2022 Open Forum #84 Digital Education and the Future of Women’s Work

Tuesday, 29th November, 2022 (12:00 UTC) - Tuesday, 29th November, 2022 (13:00 UTC)
Large Briefing Room

Panel - Auditorium - 60 Min


What does it really mean to “leave no one behind”? In the age of German feminist foreign and development policy, providing meaningful access to the internet to all people is inextricably linked with providing women and girls worldwide with equal and safe opportunities online. Women, especially those in the global south, are predominantly affected by the impact of digital transformation, yet they are still underrepresented and structurally disadvantaged in STEM-related professions. While the pandemic has exacerbated this issue, technological disruption in many industries also provides an opportunity to accelerate women’s economic empowerment by providing them with the future-proof skills they need to be leaders in a new digital era. Ensuring that women can equally benefit from opportunities provided by the internet across regions and sectors and on all hierarchical levels is a key component of the Internet Governance Forum’s (IGF) theme “Connecting All People and Safeguarding Human Rights” because it fundamentally relates to the problem of meaningful access. In this context, this session brings together a diverse global multi-stakeholder panel to discuss the role of digital skills for a female future of work by looking at how women can be elevated in tech leadership and high value-added jobs. It will include speakers from India, Iraq, Mexico, Niger and Rwanda, who will contribute a multitude of perspectives on the basis of different country experiences. In a 60-minute panel discussion and open question round, the speakers will address three key policy questions: 1. What role does women’s participation in high-level skills jobs and leadership roles play for digital gender equality in the context of fair internet governance? 2. How can digital skill development be leveraged to ensure women’s access to decent, high-value-added jobs and leadership positions? 3. What policies are necessary to enable women’s participation in high value-added digital jobs and leadership positions? This panel aims to involve the global IGF community in the discourse on the importance of bridging the digital skills divide for women and a female future of work, while providing concrete policy recommendations for German feminist development policy.

The session will feature a brief keynote by at least one online and one onsite speaker, thereby bringing both sides of the panel to the stage with active participation at the start of the session. The session will facilitate interaction between the onsite and online speakers and audience through active moderation by the onsite and online moderator, who will monitor speaking time for both onsite and offline participants. To ensure audience discussion is facilitated for both groups, questions for the panel will be collected in one joint online tool for both onsite and online participants. The organising team will provide an additional team member to monitor this tool and submit questions to the moderators at equal measure.


Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit GmbH (GIZ)

  • Fabiola Frick, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit GmbH (GIZ), Government/Organisation with international scope, Europe 
  • Leonie Kellerhof, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit GmbH (GIZ), Government/Organisation with international scope, Europe
  • Ms. Sabina Dewan (President and Executive Director, JustJobs Network, India), Research, Asia
  • Mr. Salih Mahmod (Founder & CEO Mosul Space, Iraq), Private Sector, MENA
  • Dr Kutoma Wakunuma (Associate Professor in Information Systems at De Montfort University, UK), Academia, Europe/Africa
  • Ms. Yayaha Amsatou (Specialist, Smart Villages Project of National Agency for the Information Society, Niger), Government, Africa
  • Ms. Hannah Adams (Country Manager Rwanda, Harambee Youth Accelerator), Civil Society, Africa 
Onsite Moderator

Selam Gebretsion Beyene, Intergovernmental Organization, Intergovernmental Organization

Online Moderator

Fabiola Frick, Intergovernmental Organization, Intergovernmental Organization


Leonie Kellerhof, Intergovernmental Organization, Intergovernmental Organization


4. Quality Education
5. Gender Equality
8. Decent Work and Economic Growth
10. Reduced Inequalities
17. Partnerships for the Goals
Targets: The proposed session puts a variety of regional stakeholders in conversation with each other to exchange ideas and best practices (SDG 17) for advancing women's access to decent, high-value-added jobs and leadership positions (SDG 5, 8). With a special focus on leveraging digital skill development (SDG 4) for this purpose, the stakeholders in the panel will also consider the wider impact of their work on global gender equality in the context of feminist development policy (SDG 10).

Session Report (* deadline 26 October) - click on the ? symbol for instructions

As part of the 17th UN Internet Governance Forum, held in Addis Ababa from November 28 to December 2, the BMZ Digital Transformation Centers (DTCs) together with the global project “Future of Work” organized an open forum on Digital Education and the Future of Women’s Work, on November 29. The session invited experts from a broad range of countries and background to a panel discussion on opportunities and challenges faced by women in the digital economy and the role of digital education for equitable access to IT-enabled jobs in the future. 

Sabina Dewan from the JustJobs Network India and Prof. Kutoma Wakunuma, partner of the DTC Kenya, shared findings from their research on women’s experience in the digital economy, and learnings on good practices as well as policy implications for ensuring new digital opportunities benefit women equally. Their discussion was followed by practical experiences shared by Hannah Adams from Harambee Youth Accelerator on Rwanda, Salih Mahmod from Mosul Space Iraq and Yayaha Amsatou from the SmartVillage project Niger. All panelists highlighted the need to leverage women’s opportunities in the digital economy, while universally agreeing on the many obstacles female economic empowerment remains to face.  

Participants off- and online engaged in the discussion and emphasized the importance for policymakers in the global south to ensure requisite levels of basic education as an essential starting point to promote effective digital skills development and future-oriented competencies.​ At the same time, participants called for more inclusive policy reforms education systems to ensure access for people with disabilities and other vulnerable groups. 

In conclusion, the session identified several key takeaways from the panel discussion and subsequent round of questions: While digitalization and new technologies are sought to provide new employment opportunities, their positive impact is often limited to selected, highly educated groups with access to internet and IT-infrastructures. As a result, policies and regulations must consider the needs and interest of vulnerable groups such as women to guarantee equitable access to jobs and benefits in the digital economy.  

Yet, access to digital technologies is not a guarantee for women’s economic empowerment and no end to itself. In fact, the lack of sufficient regulations threatens to exacerbate existing inequalities. Yet, there are no one-size-fits-all solutions – rather, policies need to cater to women’s needs and consider their country-specific context to empower women in the labour market as well as in their homes and communities.​ 

Socio-cultural factors prevent women from realizing their full potential and limit equitable access to jobs in the digital economy as social requirements and unpaid care work continue to bind women to traditional reproductive roles and routine jobs. Experts from India, Rwanda, Niger, Kenya and Iraq agreed that governments must prioritize job creation and commit towards reducing the gender skills gap by creating education systems that promote digital skills for younger generations. For that it is crucial that training programs are demand-oriented and offer clear pathways to jobs to ensure female participation. As shown in the case of Rwanda, female role-models can further promote women’s participation in skills trainings and increase their participation in digital markets.​ Meanwhile, governments should also incentivize the hiring of women and supporting female entrepreneurs in the digital economy.  

In addition to that, government actions must include public awareness campaigns to make digitalization more accessible in society and implement curricula that focus on digital literacy to promote key digital competencies. For that, increased investments in education are needed and gender-disaggregated data in national statistical systems must inform new regulations as well the design of systems evaluating women’s reproductive roles. As demonstrated on the example of Niger, in rural areas where digital literacy rates and access to digital financial services are particularly low, more collaboration between private and public sector is needed, as well as better stakeholder-engagement, especially including women, for promoting women’s financial and digital literacy.