The shipping industry is currently facing a new challenge; a multifaceted one called “Digital Transformation”. Digitization is currently pushing the maritime industry beyond its traditional limit and provides many new opportunities to enhance productivity, efficiency, and sustainability of logistics. The concept of smart ports for instance aims to adopt modern information technologies to enable better planning, controlling and management between and within ports. Strong facilitators of digitalization are investment into technology and cooperation for promoting information sharing and a better coordination and collaboration. With the rapid growth in e commerce, the shipping industry is feeling the impact of digital transformation. Automation is gaining interest across the maritime sector. Contemporarily, Maersk, the world largest container shipping line in the industry, is leading in the digital transformation. The Danish shipping company owns more than 600 vessels and operates in over 130 countries, transporting 675 billion US dollars’ worth of goods per year.
Today’s world is facing numerous, fundamental changes. It is transforming and accelerating under the impetus of greater urbanization and mobility, growing demand for energy, water, and food, increasing production, and the need for new technologies to improve people’s work and life. Digitalization and Industry 4.0, the Internet of Things and Big Data are driving globalization beyond borders and have a vast potential to boost economic growth and social inclusion.
Industry 4.0 means taking digitalization from the office place to the manufacturing area. It means that production processes get digitalized, and devices, objects and humans get connected in a holistic matter. Automated processes and robots are taking over labour-intensive and repetitive tasks, and safeguarding the more intelligent jobs for humans, which is obviously more convenient. In this context, there is a tremendous window of opportunity for well-educated women in the field of technical and engineering disciplines. Industry 4.0 enables new customer values, e.g. through product customization as opposed to mass production. This increases data generation and thus the need for data analysts, a job profile that was non-existent a few years ago.
According to the World Economic Forum, only about 30% of the world’s population has equal access to technology and the internet for all genders. This situation is even worse in developing countries, where only 20% of women have access to the internet. This lack of access to the internet and inability to use it not only limits women’s ability to participate in the digital economy but also prevents them from accessing essential services and information. For any modern economy looking to grow rapidly, the participation of its entire workforce in the formal economy is essential. In today’s world, where most businesses are dependent on the internet, the digital gender gap is a serious constraint in front of economic growth. In the subsequent paragraphs, we’ll try to understand the digital gender gap and explore how to bridge it. The Digital Gender Gap The digital gender gap is the disparities that exist between men and women in access to and use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs). The term “digital gender gap” was coined by UN Women in 2010.
Despite progress in closing the global gender gap overall, women and girls continue to be left behind in the digital world. The digital divide is often thought of as a divide between those who have access to technology and those who do not. However, even when women have access to ICTs, they often do not have the same level of skills or opportunities to use them for their empowerment as men do. The digital gender gap also refers to this disparity in skills, opportunities, and power between men and women concerning ICTs.
There are many reasons why the digital gender gap exists. One reason is that girls and women often face greater barriers to accessing and using ICTs than boys and men. These barriers can be economic, social, or cultural. The pandemic has highlighted just how big the digital gender gap is. Women are far less likely than men to have access to the internet and the skillset needed for effectiveness. effectively. This puts them at a disadvantage in terms of education, work, and even health care. Giving women access to the internet and teaching them digital skills can help them to overcome many of the obstacles they face. With internet access, women can gain new knowledge and skills, connect with others, and find new opportunities.
Digital knowledge can also play a significant role in women’s safety. With digital equity, women can be empowered to reach their full potential.
Digital equity is about providing everyone with equal opportunity to use technology to improve their lives. It includes making sure that everyone has access to the internet and the skills they need to use it effectively. To close the digital gender gap, it is important to provide women with better access to technology and training in digital skill. The government, corporates, and society need to support women-led businesses and initiatives that are working to bridge the divide.
Providing Women with Digital Equity
There are several ways by which women can be provided with digital equity and to fill the digital gender gap. One way is to provide them with access to the internet and affordable smartphones. The government should make digital education compulsory in primary and secondary schools. Society and corporates must build an environment that is conducive to the participation of women in the digital world. Incentivizing businesses that promote digital equity could also be a strong push to promote gender equity in the corporate world.
Opportunities for Women
- Digitalization and Industry 4.0 might be considered as a movement whether it is on the personal, professional or society level. A movement which creates opportunities for women faster than ever before.
- Providing women with digital equity can help to close the gender gap in many areas of life, including education, employment, and entrepreneurship. It can also help them to have a voice in the digital world.
- Looking at different income groups, countries or regions, the big question is, to what degree and how quickly can digitalization and Industry 4.0 reach and affect the individual groups to leverage the potential of women’s inclusion?
- Digitalization has the potential to o p e n n e w a v e n u e s a n d o pen new avenues and opportunities for women, to provide them with greater access to education, employment, and entrepreneurship. Technology can also help to challenge and break gender stereotypes and biases that often limit women’s potential.
- The use of digital platforms provides women with greater access to markets, knowledge, and more flexible working arrangements. In addition to this, there is strong and growing empirical evidence suggesting that higher levels of gender equality are associated with positive outcomes in terms of income, economic growth, and competitiveness.
- Companies with a greater gender equality in their workforce and top management are better able to attract and retain female talent, motivate their female workers, understand, and respond to the needs of female customers, and better address complex business problems by taking account of gender-informed viewpoints.
- Consequently, technical education and the economic empowerment of women can bring dramatic gains in human development and well-being for individuals, families, and society.
- In addition, digital technology has enabled women to gain visibility and recognition in their fields, allowing them to access higher paying jobs, better opportunities, and positions of leadership. Digital technology has also enabled women to become more financially independent.
- Within the global shipping and maritime context, more women are now gaining employment in shipping and maritime technology driven sectors such as AI, Machine learning and other soft skills needed to ensure sustainability.
Full Inclusion in Industry
From the foregoing, there is a strong need for the full inclusion of women in the industrial sector, and especially in the advancing digital economy and new technological environment captured by the term, Industry 4.0.
- Digitalization or Industry 4.0 will have a profound impact on the content and nature of jobs and, as a result, the skills required to perform them.
- Many analysts predict that Industry 4.0 will cause a polarization of the labour force, with an increasing share of employment in high-wage and low-wage jobs, and a decreasing share of employment in middle wage jobs.
- In this scenario, as high-wage jobs will require increased digital skills, and as weak education systems often fail to provide basic technical skills, digitalization and Industry 4.0 are likely to be applied successfully by a STEM-trained workforce.
Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Education is the Key
Thus, it goes without saying that, in this context, STEM education is the key foundation for girls and women.
- Technical education and skills development at all levels, from primary school to life-long learning, are needed more than ever before.
- Girls and women need to be given the opportunity to get well-educated and highly trained in new technologies not only during the entire learning path, but also, more importantly, in the values associated with using those technologies.
- Furthermore, women should be encouraged to exploit their entrepreneurial capabilities and be granted better access to financial capital and markets.
- Education systems must not only deliver the ability to develop new technologies, but must also educate people from an early age in STEM skills, so that they would understand whether, when, and where to use and apply those new technologies.
- Equally, they must also be educated to understand the benefits and impact these technologies create.
- STEM skills at all levels of the education and lifelong learning path are significantly and positively related to labour market return.
- Employment opportunities for women in manufacturing and digitally intensive sectors, and empowering girls and women in digitalization and Industry 4.0 are among the most promising opportunities for lifting millions out of poverty and spurring economic growth and structural change in low and middle-income countries.
- To conclude, investments in girl’s and women’s lifelong STEM and technical education have a huge multiplier effect on women’s employability, and their personal and economic well-being.
By: Sylvia Assana Dauda Owu, President of Women in Maritime of West and Central Africa (WIMOWCA)