World Bank supports digital skills expansion to match future job demands.

World Bank has called on developing nations to focus more on targeted skills expansion in the digital space, to narrow the gender digital divide in preparation for ‘digital future’ jobs.

Targeting mostly the Sub-Saharan countries, the lender notes that more focus being put only on rapid expansion will consequently widen the gaps between different sections of the society.

“For instance, women without basic digital skills will face continued barriers to accessing jobs and developing financial independence,” World Bank says.

 Africa’s digital economy is expanding fast as the International Finance Corporation (IFC) estimates that 230 million jobs in the region will require digital skills by 2030, and nearly 65 per cent of individuals recruited for jobs at African companies will require at least basic digital skills.

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Whether an urban or rural dweller, formal or informal sector worker, teacher, principal, or student, the lender reiterates that digital skills are now an essential aspect of our daily lives, thus important for everyone to be digitally literate.

In Kenya, data by UNESCO shows only 20 per cent of women in Nairobi use the internet compared to 57 per cent of men.

The Mobile Gender Gap Report 2022 by GSMA further shows that the ability between men and women to afford a smartphone and data in the country has diminished due to lower incomes, with women disproportionately impacted.

The report highlights Kenya as a country with high levels of mobile ownership, 94 per cent of adult men and 88 per cent of adult women own a phone.

However, women are less likely than men to own a smartphone, contributing to a wide mobile internet user gender gap, where women are 38 per cent less likely than men to use mobile internet.

As of 2021, the report puts men’s smartphone ownership at 49 per cent compared to 34 per cent It however acknowledges that smartphone ownership and internet use has increased for working women in the country.

“Working women experienced notable growth in smartphone ownership and mobile internet use in 2021. The proportion of working women who own a smartphone increased from 30 per cent to 37 per cent and the proportion who use mobile internet increased from 29 per cent to 36 per cent,” the report reads in part.

“In contrast, non-working women have seen no material change in their smartphone ownership or mobile internet use in recent years. Meanwhile, both working men and non-working men have experienced steady growth in smartphone ownership and mobile internet use over the same period.”

World Bank attributes the unpredictable gap to factors such as lack of digital skills, poor access to internet, divisive social norms and stereotypes, and general un affordability of data and devices.

It therefore calls on the developing nations to increase the education attainment for both genders as it helps narrow the digital divide.

Reiterates that with each education level attained by girls and women, the gender gap in digital skills decreases.

“Nevertheless, completion of higher education leads to most equitable access and use of internet among women, around 80 per cent of female higher education graduates use the internet,” the lender says.

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