Today, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation are announcing the first step in the Women in the Digital Economy Fund. The Fund was recently announced by Vice President Kamala Harris as a flagship opportunity for public-private sector collaboration to advance digital gender equality. USAID is now calling for private sector and civil society collaboration in support of this Fund.
Working with Congress, USAID plans to commit up to $50 million in Gender Equity and Equality Action (GEEA) fund resources toward this effort over the next four years, subject to the availability of funds, and the Gates Foundation will commit $10 million, with at least half of each of these commitments focused on Africa.
The Women in the Digital Economy Fund will accelerate progress to close the gender digital divide by scaling evidence-based, proven solutions that improve women’s livelihoods, economic security, and resilience. It will support programs that advance digital access and affordability; develop relevant products and tools; provide digital literacy and skills training; promote online safety and security; and invest in sex-disaggregated data and research. It will support, wherever possible, women-led solutions, products, and tools.
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 and use of applications and 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, participate and lead 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.
Further information on this initiative, including instructions for how organizations can express interest, is available on the USAID website.