Innovation in the direction of embracing equity

 

Innovation in the direction of embracing equity

 

Gender equality is urgently essential for economic prosperity and digital transformation. Gender equality is when people of all genders have equal rights, responsibilities and opportunities. Everyone is affected by gender inequality - women, men, trans and gender diverse people, children and families. It impacts people of all ages and backgrounds.Societies that value women and men as equal are safer and healthier. ICT helps in acceleration of this transformation.

 

We need more discussions on innovation in the direction of embracing equity. Girls are disadvantaged when it comes to digital adoption, have lower levels of access to and use of digital technology than boys, and often they are not benefiting from digital technology in the same way as boys. Growing inequalities are becoming increasingly evident in the context of digital skills and access to technologies, with women being left behind as the result of this digital gender divide. The need for inclusive and transformative technology and digital education is therefore crucial for a sustainable future.
 
The pace of technological change now requires education in subjects that would not have been on the curriculum even when today's young adults were in school. Universal access to the internet is the modern equivalent of the 19th century's subsidies for post offices or of the rural electrification projects of the mid-20th century: It is a path to empowerment. Internet-literacy programs for adults will also be an important priority as the web becomes an ever more essential source of value. As technology progresses, all kinds of high-quality continuing education are made available online for low cost or even for free. Online courses are already attracting enormous numbers of participants, and ease of access to such resources will be important to enabling people to acquire the skills needed to keep up with technology at work and at home. Urban girls are reaping benefits from such resources however mass scale rural girls are deprived from such facilities.
 

The smart mobile penetration is good in the context of Nepal. Increasing access to mobile phones, cash transfers, and digital financial literacy skills can strengthen women's decision-making abilities and enhance their bargaining power in the home. The Ministry of education has not remodeled their curriculum in order to reflect on true Human Capital Development process in alignment with technology. Inclusion of women experts in the decision-making body will add value in the policy level decision making process for such alignment.

 

Developing new innovation for solving problems requires new perspective thinking. Historically, most technology is designed to solve problems of men. There is a need for applying a gender responsive approach to disrupt this trend in order to cope with new digitally driven complex society. Prevailing gender norms, roles, and relations result in women and men facing different challenges, concerns and experiences. Innovation and technology offer greater promise in tackling development and humanitarian challenges and are potential engines for advancing gender equality and women’s empowerment.  Gender blind approach will result in innovations that will fail to reach unserved most in need, leading to missed opportunities for the mass.

 

Today’s digital transformation opens avenues for women’s economic and social empowerment and can be used to boost gender equality if we are strategic about it. Programs are emering in other countries to support women innovators in the start-up, nonprofit and academic ecosystems driving change across a variety of fields, while at the same time accelerate innovations that give visibility to women in data, promote women’s digital access and use, and propel more women to join the digital economy and STEM. There are cases of Women-led startups and businesses, non-profits and academic institutions from across the region leading gender equality or tech-driven innovations with financing, resources, training and mentorship. Women’s entrepreneurial opportunities in Nepal remain scarce. They should pursue education in STEM-fields, and support informal businesses to shift to the formal sector and expand.

 

 

To adopt more gender-responsive and inclusive processes Nepal lacks access to robust data and evidence on the women’s needs and gender gaps. There is funding constraints for the generation of evidence about the needs, but also to use this data to highlight the opportunity – for the market and other relevant stakeholders. Funds are required to identify and work with likeminded partners that recognize the benefits in investing in the design of more inclusive processes, services and products to address the needs of women and other underserved segments.

It is also important to not only work to reinforce the offer of more inclusive products by designing them around the specific needs of women and underserved segments, but also to simultaneously strengthen the demand for such products and services, by focusing on awareness-raising and capacity building strategies that are also tailored to the needs of the end users. Such strategies need to take into account the different level of access that women and men have to technology and other assets, but also their different time use and work burden, which requires a deep understanding of local social norms, roles and relations. Digital solutions, products and content, fail to consider, the connectivity and data limitations, devices girls have access to, the digital platforms they are on, their digital literacy levels, or content girls find relevant and want to see. Expert teams often design for a user base that is predominantly male. Girls are left out of co-creation, design, and product testing. This means that girls engage less with digital solutions. This widens the gender digital divide and puts girls at a further disadvantage.

 
There is a growing need to address the importance of protecting the rights of women and girls in digital spaces and addressing online and ICT-facilitated gender-based violence. A gender-responsive approach to innovation, technology and digital education can increase the awareness of women and girls regarding their rights and civic engagement. However, Nepal lacks in reaching out communication infrastructure and requires resources to rural mass to create more responsive government service delivery.
 
Advancements in digital technology offer immense opportunities to address development and humanitarian challenges, and to achieve the 2030 Agenda’s Sustainable Development Goals. Unfortunately, the opportunities of the digital revolution also present a risk of perpetuating existing patterns of gender inequality. Nepal also lacks in policies regarding  Human Capital development.
 
 
 
Nepal government is utilizing the  resources of Rural Telecommunication Development Fund (RTDF) where Projects like “Connect a School Connects a community”, District Optical fiber project, ICT friendly VDC, are known to be financed through it. Ncell company has supported hardware infrastructure for sixty numbers rural schools. Rotary club supported similar hardware resources with training programs in sixty schools under the TEACH program supported by international grant.
It is hoped to be a big leap in bridging the Digital Divide in the country. However, learning experiences of sustainable model of such initiatives are not shared among concerned stakeholders and collaborative approach is lacking.
Some private institutions are spending CSR funds on religious groups and such institutions should be encouraged to divert their CSR funds towards a better purpose like giving input to deprived students of rural areas. Social entrepreneurship is an innovative business venture with sustainable social change that transforms for positive impact. This concept is at infant stage in Nepal and should be reflected in academic research and curriculum. Academia and industry collaboration is still poor in Nepal. Women leaders should play key role in promoting such cause.
 

The Department under the Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare of Government of Nepal is the implementing its mandatory program to empower women, especially those who are economically poor, socially discriminated or otherwise put at a disadvantage. It is also working towards advancing child rights and mainstreaming gender concerns in decentralized planning and review.

In fulfilling its mandate, the Department has a strategy paper – an expression of aspirations, assumptions and approaches. The departmental structure stretches out across the country, enabling it to run the Women's Development Programme, a community-level empowerment initiative involving hundreds of thousands of participants. However,  they have so far not included initiatives to include women experts from ICT groups to make their program more effective and meaningful. The Human Capital building processes supported by adequate budget  is also lacking.

Globally and locally technological progress has gone along with socially negative outcomes, such as the exclusion of a large proportion of the people from the benefits of digitalization, essentially because their incomes are too low for them to have meaningful connectivity (i.e., high-quality access), access to devices, fixed home connections and the ability to use these day to day. A large demand gap has thus opened up, as coverage is adequate but is not reflected in connections and usage. Other problems have also worsened, such as the proliferation of fake news and cyber attacks, the growing risk to privacy and personal data security, and the large-scale production of electronic waste.
 
The Digital Framework Nepal  has been seen as an ambitious project by the Nepal government for raising digital literacy and supporting the advancement of ICT. The framework has been developed as a roadmap for how digital efforts can contribute to economic growth. It also seeks to find new solutions to address important societal concerns efficiently and integrating with global economy. The program covers digital foundation, agriculture, health, education, energy, tourism, finance and urban infrastructure with 80 initiatives. Proper institutional and structural arrangements have not been worked out professionally to implement it effectively and lacks poletical will. . digital leadership, digital literacy, and accountability are missing in the framework. Creating an ‘ecosystem’  is a big challenge. There is a lack of coordination and cooperation between the government and the private sector regarding the implementation of the Digital Nepal Framework. The financial model is unclear.  Culture of data sharing is a problem taking care of privacy and security issues.The Government of Nepal should engage all the concerned stakeholders supported by Think Thanks for creating a better responsive government implementing these initiatives.
 
will bring together technologists, innovators, entrepreneurs, and gender equality activists to provide an opportunity to highlight the role of all stakeholders in improving access to digital tools and be followed by a high-level panel discussion and musical performances.
 
 
Series of events supported by various concernd stakeholders both local and international including Think Tank groups will  bring together technologists, innovators, entrepreneurs, and gender equality activists to provide an opportunity to highlight the role of all stakeholders in improving access to digital tools and be followed by a high-level panel discussion. The regulators supported by Think Tank group should organize events to bring awareness program among concerned stakeholders. 
 
AUTHOR
 

Experience: Combination of policy makers , innovator, entrepreneur,  and social activist

More than 40 years in ICT

Professor Timila Yami Thapa was educated in Indian Institute of Technology ( B. Tech. Electronic Engineering( 1975 batch), Kanpur, India and M.Sc. from  De Montfort University, Leicestershire, UK 1995 in Information Technology with specialization in Systems Engineering. She also underwent one year of training on Systems and Communication Infrastructure at Philips, Holland sponsored by UNDP. Her service to Nepal is a unique combination of a national-level policy planner, a pioneering educator in Information Technology and Computer Engineering, an industrial administrator, an entrepreneur and a social reformer working for upliftment of women, child-education and youth employment.  She pioneered and initiated new educational programs in Nepal. Her efforts to improve technological infrastructure culminated in the  first ever Computer Engineering program in the history of Nepal at Institute of Engineering under Tribhuvan University, which became the foundation of current growth in engineering and technology in Nepal.

 

Pioneering Contribution in ICT sector

Story

Considering the political situation and the state of education in 1979, it required significant effort and persuasion of higher administration and ministers to invest in the technological future of Nepal. As a national-level policy planner, I worked for one year as a Member of the ICT Advisory Board under the Prime-minister's office.  As an educational policy planner, I served as a member of the Academic council and the Research Council under   University Grant Commission, Nepal.  I also worked as a governing member of the Nepal Engineering Council for three years. I also served for three years as a member of the advisory board member of Rural Telecommunication Fund Board, Nepal Telecommunication Authority (NTA). From 1996-08, I was also in charge of looking after promoting the software industry in the Computer Association of Nepal (CAN) where I worked as an executive board member (1996- 1998 ). I am currently also serving as an Immediate Past President, IETE ( Institute of Electronics and Telecommunication Engineers, India), Nepal chapter.

As an educator, I served in the Engineering  faculty, Institute of Engineering (IOE)  of Tribhuvan University, Nepal, since 1979 until my retirement (2015) first as a professor in the Electronics and Computer Engineering Department; and later as the Assistant Dean when I managed four state-owned and ten affiliated Engineering colleges. I taught Electronic Engineering courses from 1979 till 1997 and Computer Engineering courses in that department from 1998 till 2015 at Institute of Engineering IOE, under Tribhuvan University. I also worked in Pokhara university for four years designing course-curriculum of BE Software Engineering, Computer Engineering, BCA, BE in Information Technology. I also served as a senate member at Pokhara University. I also worked as a Senate member for two years at Pokhara University. 

I am the owner of a Software company Designco Nepal founded in 1991. That time, well-qualified human resources in the IT area were not available and opening a software company was very difficult due to the lack of resources and the domestic market.

I handled complex software projects of  Himal Cement, Nepal Electricity Authority, Nepal Telecom, Nepal Water Sewerage Corporations(NWSC)  and KUKL, Jyoti Group, etc.

I also initiated the creation of the first IT Park in the history of Nepal organizing a series of interactions with prominent leaders and business people including president of FNCCI. I was a CAN executive committee member then. CAN Infotech exhibition was also organized that also provided more exposure along with the further exposure in the International Software Industry exhibition at Hanover Germany 1996, 1997 and 1999  and I contributed  in formulating  IT policy and initiating IT park. I also convinced the Education ministry and concerned stakeholders to invest in opening Computer Engineering at IOE.

As a social reformer, I have been actively involved in the social work in child education and women’s empowerment by organizing many activities and participating in many organizations. I founded DHMA in 2011 and currently work as Chairperson to promote ICT, child education, empowerment programs for minority groups, especially women, skill development of youth and services for and child education. in Nepal. I am also engaged in other organizations with the major motto of promoting ICTs extensively for empowerment. I worked as Chairperson of Women Agency Research Nepal (2019- 2022), Life member of Women In IT(WIIT), Executive member of senior Professor’s Association, Executive Member of  Senior Citizens Samaj, Nepal. Member of Senior Professional Engineer, CIDC, India. Life member of Management Association Nepal (MAN), Nepal Engineer Association (NEA) and HEADS Nepal, Member of Women in Science and Technology (WIST),  Member of  Women chapter of Chamber of Commerce, Member of AOTs Japan, Member of Mount Everest Rotary club, Member of Lalitpur Cultural Centre.