Announced by the White House in March 2023, the Women in the Digital Economy Fund (Wi-DEF) is a joint effort between USAID and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to accelerate progress on closing the gender digital divide.
USAID will commit up to $50 million in Gender Equity and Equality Action (GEEA) fund resources, subject to the availability of funds, and the Gates Foundation will commit $10 million by the end of 2026, with at least half of each of these commitments focused on Africa. In addition to its commitment to Wi-DEF, the Gates Foundation has committed to invest $40 million toward closing the digital gender divide in Africa and South Asia.
Wi-DEF will accelerate progress to close the gender digital divide by scaling evidence-based, proven solutions, including women-led solutions that improve women’s livelihoods, economic security, and resilience. This work will focus on programs that support digital access and affordability; the design and development, especially women-led development, of relevant products and tools; digital literacy and skills training; online safety and security; and sex-disaggregated data and research.
The Women in the Digital Economy Fund will aim to achieve the following core results:
- Access and Affordability. Get more internet access and internet enabled devices into the hands of women and make sure that devices, digitally-enabled services including digital finance, and data are affordable, reliable, secure, and accessible, including for users with disabilities.
- Relevant Products and Tools. Design, develop, and provide access to relevant products and tools (interfaces, voice technologies, applications, digitally-enabled services) that meet women’s needs and facilitate women’s demand for and use of mobile devices, particularly smartphones, internet, and other technologies, especially for income-generation purposes.
- Literacy and Skills. Strengthen women’s digital skills and literacy, including media literacy, so that they can fully and safely access digital services and participate in digital spaces, including the digital economy.
- Safety and Security. Address technology-facilitated gender-based violence and online harassment and strengthen safeguards for digital user protection, including on consumer financial protection, data protection, cyber security, fraud, and risk mitigation.
- Data and Insights. Expand collection and responsible use of required sex-disaggregated data (and where possible, disaggregated by age and disability), research, and gender analysis (a) to better understand and address social norms and systems that influence gender disparities in technology adoption; (b) as a precursor to inform gender-equitable design of and activities related to digital policies, protocols, platforms, products, and services; and (c) to track and benchmark change.
Wi-DEF is a joint endeavor between the USAID/DDI’s Innovation, Technology, and Research Hub Technology Division and the Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment (GenDev) Hub.
How to Get Involved
USAID and the Gates Foundation are currently seeking to partner with an interested organization to lead and implement activities under Wi-DEF. Interested organizations can find additional information on the fund and express their interest by May 26, 2023 here. For any questions on Wi-DEF or this partnership opportunity, please contact email@example.com.