IT/UN Women Equals In Tech Panel Discussion: Closing The Gender Digital Divide
20 December 2017 - A Open Forum on in Geneve,Switzerland
>> Sonia Su Herring: Good morning, thank you, everyone, for being here this morning. And we'll start with Anna from U.N. women and her opening remarks.
>> Anna Faith: Thank you, Sonia. And good morning, everyone. My name is Anna Faith, I'm from U.N. women, leading a work on women's economic empowerment, which entails a lot, women in STEM, women in technology, in procurement, and many other areas. I'm so excited to be here. It's been a long process for us to look at all of the applications, almost 300 applications to the EQUALS-GEM-TECH awards to really figure out who are the ones we should put here with us today and share their experience, lessons learned, the struggles. We hope you'll also hear some ant the challenge, and to learn from it. They're really, really great role models. And what we heard in the past few days is that we really like role models. And one of the reasons that we have the EQUALS in tech award is to promote more role models and women in tech.
It was the previous GEM-TECH award that we've been doing for a few years but with the launch of EQUALS in September of 2016, we also rebranded the award so that we are now going in full force.
You may know about the EQUALS from the past few days and from previous encounters with EQUALS. We try to be in all of the conferences and spaces to spread the word about how we can bridge the gender digital divide. And as we are all sitting with our computers and mobile phones, it might be difficult to really understand the depth of this gender digital divide. We have about 1.7 billion women in the world who don't have a mobile phone. And we are trying to build the business case for the private sector and actors to really take action. We know, for example, calculation of $170 billion market opportunities is in actually making sure that women get access to mobile phones.
But at the same time, we as UN women have been working with the Vatican in discussing the connectivity as a human right. Is it a human right? Is it something that we should push as a human right? Or do we need to continue to work on the business case? And maybe we should continue on both fronts. Because we know that it has tremendous costs to, to society of not tackling these issues. And it's not only about giving access, it's about getting the adoption to the technology and that people know how to use it and use it to build skills.
The good news is that women are much more likely to use the internet for learning purpose, so once we get them onboard, we know that they will be using it more for those purposes. We also know that 73% of women have endured cyberviolence and we have talked about in the last few days how much that's cost to companies in terms of absenteeism and in terms of lower productivity when women in general are faced with domestic violence or violence in the public space.
We also know a little bit about what works and what doesn't work. We know that public access access to Wi-Fi is a good way to promote women's access to the internet and we can see in many cities around the world that it has started to be a practice.
We also know that house hold, when you're giving -- when one member of the house hold is buying a phone and get a second one free, that this will be given to a woman and that also enhances her access. We know that digital skills training works. And it's important to also link this to access to finance. The tech agenda has also been brought into these discussions.
But I'm more excited actually to hear about our award winners and how they have tackled the issues of access, skills, and women's leadership. And not only are they role models themselves, but they have also helped other women to get access and skills in the internet and become leaders in this space.
So, I would like to congratulate Nyla, Kimla, and Roia for their work. I'm so excited to hear more about it. We heard a little bit about it yesterday but we hope to have a little more in depth discussion. So thank you very much on behalf of U.N. women and our partners at ITU and our partners at EQUALS, I'm excited to be here. Sonia, over to you.
>> Sonia Su Herring: I would like to congratulate all of the winners. So Nyla, from Lebanon and Kimlie from Costa Rica and Roia from Afghanistan. We're going to hear more about their amazing projects. But what we also want to focus on is the challenges they faced and how they overcame them so it can be an inspiration and there's lessons to be taken for everyone else who would like to help close this gender divide around the globe. So if we would just start from Nyla. What were the -- what were the greatest challenges that you faced working on your project?
>> Nyla: Is it working? Yes. Can I just -- can I just mention the #EQUALS In TECH. You have it on the banners here. When I was little, I wanted to become a judge. But they told me it's not a good job. So I became a teacher and used a ruler instead of a hammer.
This could look like a joke, but this is a reality of girls in technology, technology is a boy job. And so girls don't even dare to come near these kinds of jobs. So I will be telling you the story of our project -- girls can count -- and while telling you the story, I will be sharing our constraints and what response we gave to those constraints. How much time do I have? I'm always afraid to go over.
>> Sonia Su Herring: We'll start with three minutes each?
>> Nyla: So it's a small NGO funded in 2014. It believes in equitable access to quality education and we mainly do digital education. We have a platform, it's called Topsura
it means choke? Chalk? I don't know. And the objective of Topsura was relevant with the Syrian refugee crisis. It aims at filling the gaps and helps students at least Syrian refugee students keep up with school. It also helps -- it's also a support for Lebanese children. We focus on discovery activities and reasoning skill. We have curriculum -- curriculum in three languages. The three languages used in Lebanon are English and French. This is very briefly who we are.
How can we come with the girls can count project? Well during our feel with it, we do not teach, we only provide resources and training, be uh we go and assess our resources. So during our field visit, we noticed the inequality of education between boys and girl, also the rate of secondary girls in school at least in Lebanon is, and you may be surprised higher than boys. Because of the economical crisis, boys are taken outside of school to work. So there are more girls than boys in the secondary level.
But those girls have different educations than boys. A lot of them -- while boys have technology or computer lessons, they have dressing or sowing or these kinds of workshops, especially when I go into the refugee community. In Lebanon. With one day we were checking the equipment in the computer lab, one girl came to me and said I want to be a computer engineer but they don't let me have the computer courses. They take me to hair dressing, I don't want to be a hairdresser, I want to be a computer engineer. And the friend who was with her, Rasha, she told me, and me, I want to be an architect. And she showed me her house who was completely disturbed by the war rebuilt by her so she was growing the house with the garden, with vegetables.
So here came the ideas of the girls can count project. The girls can count project aims at reenforcing STEAM skills for secondary girls. Fighting against stereotypes and tradition, and helping them access their dreams.
So we do S.T.E.A.M. activities in order to help them -- to help them do so. And we face, and I will come to the constraints -- we faced several constraints. Constraint one was convincing the family that the girls were not meet bad boys while using the computer. But this was a main -- a main issue. We don't want our girls in front of a computer, they will use this social media and they will meet boys and...
One of the solutions, it's not perfect, it was to have informal meetings with the family, basically we had food and drinks so they were -- they were coming. And we would try to let them see our resources, discuss with them, etc.
The constraint two was convincing the school and the teacher to change their teaching habits and to use ICT. And the solution we found was considering the school as a partner and giving it the visibility. The visibility was important for the teacher management. And we brought some of the best teachers to be our champion and help them as a teacher use technology in class and providing them with a small amount of money so they will do this seriously.
Constraint number three was devices. This is why we partner with an NGO called techies at world-wide refurbished computers and other who provide also refurbed or low-cost tab lets.
Constraint number four and the biggest one was access. And the solution was the books. The box -- I am showing you the box because you are looking at your computer, look at my box. So the box is a tiny server. It's a raspberry pie technology, so it's a mini server. We put all of our content on a memory card so it's very easy to replace. When when he do more activities or we change our activities.
This tiny server, hot spot, wireless, so a whole computer room. We are using it in community centers. We are also using it in tented facilities, and we also in Lebanon have an electricity problem so we can put the power back and it have ten hours of electricity autonomy. The last constraint I will be talking about is the learning gaps and language gaps. We first wanted to do STEAM problem-based approach. We were excited about that. It didn't work. It didn't work because girls had severe gaps so they couldn't choose resources to reinvest into finding solutions to a problem.
What we did was we did a two-level program. The first level was giving the girl basic resources, basic concepts of science and math, and then having an STEAM exercise and linking the STEAM exercise exercise with the resources they have already studied and we have already developed and of course others so they can use other resources.
The other difficulty was the language. In Lebanon we teach science, math, and French or English, not Arabic. And for Syrian refugee, it was a big issue. We had a chance to partner with an oxford fellow on a research of designing tasks and asking questions and we had some very useful recommendations. I could -- I know I didn't expect my time, so I will share it with you later if you're interested.
>> Sonia Su Herring: In order not to go over time but very shortly, Nyla, I wanted to talk about usually it's STEM, science, technology, engineering, and math. But you have added art to it. So very shortly, why did you add art and what was the effect?
>> Nyla: It's a big discussion in the education world, is art part of STEM or no? It's a debate. But we clearly think that art is a plus to STEM. Creativity art is a creative way -- of using creativity to solve problems also. So we can use science, technology, and creativity to solve some problems.
>> Sonia Su Herring: Thank you very much. Now to Kimlie. Also, definitely not three minutes. It was five minutes. And could you tell us shortly about your project and the challenges and how you overcame them.
>> Kimlie: Thank you very much. My name is Kimlie. We are based in Costa Rica but we work in Central America, we partner in all of the countries in central America. Our project -- the name of our project is TIKAS. And the focus of the project is in the IT industry. We are interested to create more opportunities and more conditions for women to be integrated in equal conditions, yes, in the IT industry.
Why we want that first, because we related with the economic rights of the women at this moment at this time in the history, yes. And that digital technology is built mostly by men. The digital technology we are using for our daily life is built basically by men. But this is not a good issue. We need more women integrated in if IT industry in the high level doing high-level technology. And then this is the focus of our work.
All of that began in 2011 when we have had some conversations with young women who were studying informatics, computers, and other related careers, and they tell us about all of the difficulties they have to really open spaces in an industry who has only 20% or less women integrated, yes?
And then the difficulties were not just in the -- in the IT enterprises, in the IT industry, but also in the university careers, also in the informatic careers, also in the technical careers related with IT.
That began in 2011 when we had had this discussion. And then we began to try to define how we can open these spaces but open the spaces with the young women, yes? That was one point where we began all of the projects.
The second point is when we discuss with the young women in the IT sector, first, they wanted to come back to their territory, to their own territories to use the technology in their own territories. Many of them came from the rural areas to study in the universities, in the urban areas, or they study in the different headquarters in rural areas in the universities or institutes.
But one interest of women is to really use the technology to develop their own territories. They want to come back and develop their own territories. Then the combination of this, two issues, we want to develop our territories and we want to open opportunities for women in the IT sector for the TIKAS program. Yes?
Then based on that, first thing we decide is how do we -- it's impossible for just one woman in one class, I teach in the university informatics, and I always have 30 guys and one girl, yes? Or 30 guys and two girls. Then it's impossible for her to really have a leadership in the IT sector when they are one or two in with 30 guys, yeah, with 30 men.
Then the first thing we do is begin to create a network between women in the IT or interested in IT development. We develop a network between them and we begin meeting, discussing, and creating proposals together. Yes? And this network is growing up, it's growing up. Now we have not just one network, but we have different networks in different parts in the country and now in central America. Then we have networks who can connect, who create proposals, who propose to even to them -- to the universities, how do develop an IT career more inclusive, yes? Less exclusive of the difference.
Because something that's important now. In the IT sector, this problem is not just for women, it's for instance, for Caribbean -- we don't have Caribbean people inside the IT industry or we don't have a lot of indigenous people inside the IT industry or even people with disabilities, don't have a lot. We have to create a new IT industry who integrates the diversity, beginning with women because we are half of the population.
Them one of the ways that we work on that is create these different networks to support each other, to support each other to integrate all of the womens interest in developing the IT industry or the IT industry, interest in developing integrated technology. We grow up and we start networks and connect to each other.
This is one thing. The other thing is we began to develop the technology in the rural areas with the leadership of women. Then these women, many of the women already graduated, come back to the rural areas, and begin to develop their own enterprises and their own software, yes, and their own technology for the rural areas. And we begin to develop a local digital community very connected with the needs of the rural populations.
Then this is the second part. We have done -- we have different strategies, not going in detail, but we have girls in technology, mothers in technology. We have a club for no dropoff of women in IT careers. We have hackathons for women to develop ideas, etc., etc. And we support all of the I.T. entrepreneurship by women.
>> Sonia Su Herring: Okay, again, very shortly. Were there any differences with working with women in rural areas compared to urban areas. Or are the challenges so similar that the solutions are the same? Very shortly, please?
>> Kimlie: Really, there is a big difference in working in the rural and women in the urban areas. Just to mention two or three, one is the stereotypes and patterns in the relationship between women and technology is stronger in the rural areas, yes?
The second is of girls, we have the difficulty with the access to the technology. And we have to create solutions, inventive solutions to have access to the -- good access to the beloved -- to the digital economy in the rural areas. Then we have to be very creative on that, yes?
And also, there are more opportunities in the urban areas, definitely, there are more opportunities for finance, for training, for support, yes? And we need to develop policies to develop a digital economy in the rural areas with the lead of women.
>> Sonia Su Herring: Thank you, and now to Roia, again, what were the challenges you faced? And, by the way, after Roia, we're going to open the floor with questions, both participants and remote. So, Roia, can you tell us about your project and your challenges?
>> Roia: Sure, I wanted to start from when I connected to the computer. I grew up in Iran. But I found it's very difficult in Afghanistan to find a book to be updated with information that I could learn in the schools. And the only problem is we're living in the houses that was separated from the -- the big walls -- it wasn't jail, but it feel like a jail. I always thought how I can find information inside, how can I find access to the outside world.
In 2003, everything changed, an internet cafe opened. Only my brother and cousins could go there. A good girl wouldn't walk in. I refused to give up my dream. And one day I was walking in the internet club and for the first time I used the internet. And for that day, everything for me changed. I find there was more than just what was around me.
And I decided at that moment to make technology the center of my career. I went to school, I start my business in 2010 with my younger sister, the first technology that a woman was a CEO in Afghanistan. Afghanistan the woman are not supposed to work outside. There was attack on me personally and professionally. We couldn't have access to financials, that's difficult for women who want to start businesses. We had the challenges of security, the cultural barriers, technical support, everything that you can imagine, we had challenges with that.
They also started to -- Taliban send the threats and we had to deal with the male-dominated IT industries that continued to follow us. And they accuse us that we are a spy of the outside. Many of these challenges that I found is very difficult.
But if I had a message I can send to many of the girls who wanted to have the same career. I decided not to fight but become an entrepreneur. That's why technology is helping us, to lower our others but make our presence on-line. But we find our investors, I continue to find the clients outside, and I continue to work with my love and create more jobs for women. But I find there were many of the girls out there just like me, curious but given technology to explore the world. So we wanted to change everything for them. That's why we start this fund.
Giving the women the access to technology and building IT centers inside the schools. It's really important for me to provide it from the young age because many girls get married on the age of 18. So we wanted to start provide training at the age of 12 to learn about computers, social media, coding, and it was great, but then we had also the challenges of the considerate society that they don't want the girls to learn about technology.
One of our colleagues has already mentioned that families say technology or technology will bring bad things to the young girls. We decided to tell them it's not about internet, it's about the job opportunities for your girls. So they can continue to make money and they can develop their family. We built a platform to allow the women to write the blogs and share with other people and then they can make money with the platform.
And then we had a challenge of how to pay the users. We bring the bitcoins in 2015 in Afghanistan. But then we had a challenge of 2014 when the Americans and many of the international donors left, there was not -- there wasn't enough jobs so we got the unemployment rates in Afghanistan. Many of the graduates from university had a challenge to find a job much less students from high school.
We introduced financial literacy to the program. It was game changing. We teach the kids how to learn to manage the money from level of home to level of entrepreneurship which we think is totally game changing and the family was super happy because the girls started to help the family in terms of how to do the finance, taxing, accounting, saving, everything that could help them.
And then last year we helped them so with the financial literacy training and the tech skills, now they decided to have 100 women. The age from 12 to 18 years old. We have a student who is 16 years old and have 25 people work for her. A student eight months ago started a uniform shop and she already made $8,000 and she's only 14 years old. Now they are starting to support their families. We make them as a role model for other girls and other communities that they can look at them and they say, okay, if she can do that with the traditional culture, so our girls can do the same.
But a year ago, that was all of the projects that I have done in Afghanistan had it in society. But one of the things that would totally change everything, it was a robotic team that I don't know if you have heard about that. A year ago, there was a t ask me to build a robotic team to bring into the international competition. And I thought that why not to make all team of the girls. So all of the girls and the women in Afghanistan. So building the team, we brought it -- with a lot of difficulties, we finally brought them to the U.S. But what this makes it interesting about this is when we were in Afghanistan, the government and leaders tried to ignore us. And for three weeks, we were in all of the news. But they didn't want to say one word that they are proud of these girls. They didn't even recognize us. It's centuries that they ignored the woman's ability in science and technology, they did the same with us.
They didn't want us to be quiet. Again, technology helped us to give a voice and talking with the media, the social media. And telling everybody about our story. And that's bringing it to the United States. But then back from the United States, it was totally changed.
>> Sonia Su Herring: Can you comment --
>> I said when we got back to Afghanistan, things were changed. In the century the women were ignored in science and technology, then society changed their view about the women's ability.
>> Sonia Su Herring: I was going to ask what are the best practices that would help women become more active in STEM areas and in societies that gender roles are more traditional. You answered that high lighting the economical aspect of things helps family in the society to be perhaps more open, can we say that?
>> Exactly, yes.
>> Sonia Su Herring: I would like to take questions from the room or if we have any questions on-line for our participants? Well, they presented it so well, that there aren't any questions. No, nothing on-line.
>> Hello, good morning. First of all, congratulations to all of the three winners for your extremely important work. I'm very amazed and overwhelmed after your presentations. Thanks a lot. I work for the German government in the ministry for the development of corporations. And in 2017, Germany headed the G-20 presidency, so we pushed very hard to put the topic of the digital gender divide on the agenda of the developing working group. And we're proud at the end we made it -- well, the 20 biggest economies committed to promote digital skills for women and girls to overcome the gender divide. So this is at the policy level. But still we know that there's a huge gap between the policy level and the political will and on the other hand of the important work at the ground that needs to be done. So i'm very glad that these important initiatives that you are taking actively onboard. And I would like to ask you about the financial issues? How easy or how difficult is it for the three of you to get financial sustainability for your activities. As I understand it, from Afghanistan, I heard you're making a business case out of it. So maybe it's self-sustainable because, yeah, it's a business model. But I would like to hear from you what is the model of sustainability of your activities and how easy or difficult is it for you to get funding for your activities? Thanks a lot.
>> Sonia Su Herring: If everyone could limit their answers to two minutes this time, it would be great. From Roia to Kimlie.
>> Roia: At the beginning, I started my local company to finance projects, but later when I left Afghanistan, we started this. And it's very, very difficult to raise money through donors or through the grants. So we're trying to focus on making it sustainable. One of the ways we sort of did these is they're making money, they can give it to the foundation and we can continue to work. And the other things that we're going to start is a coffee and tea business, buying the spices from students working on the farm, bring it to the U.S. that will be selling the coffee and tea in January.
The third thing we're working on is that we are working with the STEAM schools, we're going to build the first STEAM schools in Afghanistan, one of the part of s the innovation centers that's going to be connected as an incubator and develop a program with a longer term.
>> Kimlie: It's always difficult to get financial support for the activities. In our case, something that is very, very important for us is the alliances. We have a strong alliances, for instance, with universities, with the school, with the private sector, with the public sector, and with the international corporations. All of these alliances put something in the project, yes, sir?
For instance, in the universities we double up -- all is based in the universities, yes. They have the infrastructure. For the public sector, for instance, we get some scholarships for the women and for the girls to come to the different clubs. We try to get specific support for the difference alliances, and in this way, we finance, yes, the project.
At this moment, we have the support of Google.earth to expand the project to central America and we have had the support of gender equity from U.N. women. But the project is based in alliances.
>> You won't be surprised if I say very difficult too. Especially some funds are heavy, so it takes too much work to write reports, to answer some -- to get the -- so it's easy not to have them. We have two solutions, one of the -- one of our solutions we have presented to the accelerated and been selected so we would work on the sustainability idea. We get everything for free, boxes, programs, etc.
So we working for sustainability. And so the other is collaboration and volunteering. We work with a lot of retired teachers and young freshly graduated students who need experience.
>> Sonia Su Herring: And something else that I would like to hear from all of you is who wants to talk about the EQUALS a bit and like what does the award mean to you? Why do you think it's important? And what are your plans for your initiative? Or are there any new initiatives for the following year in 2018? Keep going right and left. So --
>> Nila: For me, the Tec award was important on many levels mainly because of the recognition related to what I was saying about how heavy some funds are. It's a recognition of small initiatives. It's the idea that -- it's an idea with a small initiative, you can do big things. And this is really important. We are a small young NGO and we are very honored to have been -- been selected. What did you ask me too?
>> Sonia Su Herring: Oh, what are your near-term plans for your initiative.
>> Nila: I will share my dreams. At the moment, we're doing activities related to school because we are answering a need. But I think there is another need that I would love to fill -- I don't know to say to fill. It's extracurricular activities. I would love to use digital to bring to the community arts, music, science like astronomy, things like that. So to use the digital to make them discover culture and music and singers and dance.
>> Sonia Su Herring: I think it's amazing how you're bringing together the digital and technology with the more creative areas. So congratulations. And Kimlie?
>> Kimlie: For us, it's really, I don't know, is really important for us to be recognize it for those working in the IT industry and base it in the leadership of the young women. Networks. It's not just for us, it's also for the partners and the alliances who are around -- who are around all of these projects. And it's seen a special recognition for the young women who are trying to change the IT sector. It's also for me to recognize the 193 initiatives that have been presented, I think, it's crucial to recognize that we as women are trying to do a change -- trying to change that -- the digital society.
And in terms of the future? We hope we can really have a model tested about how to develop technology in the rural areas where the women really want to have a conceptual model, yes, to offer to the world and to have success, especially in the northern part of Costa Rica where we have been working for the last four years, developing the technology. And also these --
>> Sonia Su Herring: By poll, what do you mean, survey?
>> Kimlie: Clusters?
Maybe technological clusters in the rural areas. And also scale up for central America, the plan for it to begin now in 2018.
>> Roia: Well, this award means that the world and especially taking the industries to recognize the importance of the work we're doing after many years that we're working to empower the woman and also building communities. So its's absolutely a big honor to us to be recognized at such a great stage.
But also it's encouraging us to keep continuing a dream and seeing that our projects are important to continue to not being only in Afghanistan, but is extended to many other countries. We're also going to extend it. But two projects in 2018, first, building a school of science, technology, engineering, art, and math centers in Afghanistan to building the next generation of their leaders in the science and technology. We want to make sure that Afghanistan will be in the eyes of the next generation the next 20 years be a country of a source of high-tech.
The second thing that we're also going to focus on is to build a -- to launch our marketplace for the woman who are -- who have a small and medium-sized business that to help them to have a small companies that can give them access to networks, educational material, and, yeah, that's also another project that we are focusing on that it's using the block chain -- based on the block chain platform as well. Hopefully we can have our own as well. But for the next series, a block chain platform.
>> Sonia Su Herring: Since we started a bit late, I'm hoping we'll have a bit of extra time. Okay, I'll take a few questions from the floor and then we'll have closing remarks by Kara from ITU.
>> Audience: Hi, good morning. I work in Egypt in a research center that looks at access to knowledge and development. I have a question inspired by what Ms. Nila said about the Lebanese experience. Because we've also encountered a bit of a challenge when it comes to teaching skills in data analytics, a lot of it is in English and people speak Arabic. So I want to hear more about what do you guys experience in terms of language barriers and in terms of impacting who you could teach certain skills to or if you haven't or if you have ideas on what your experiences were in mitigating this language barrier? If you've encountered it. Thank you?
>> Nila: Well, we're in the middle of reflection about the language barrier. The idea -- the main idea is expressed by the Syrian refugees themselves, they do not want to have the content translated to Arabic. They do not want to be confined in clothes -- they want to be open to the world and learn in another language.
How to solve it? We had try -- thinking of three solutions. The recommendation for oxford was very -- was very basic, things like how to ask a question -- repetition? Using the same words in different -- different words for the same concept, etc.
We had recommendations that were very useful. So you repeat and be direct in the way you ask questions so don't say what do you think about but say give me an answer. This kind of recommendation. The second idea was to have -- and this is also a debate, was to have it in mixed -- it's a lot now in Africa, to give resources in two languages, at the same time. It doesn't mean you'll translate it in other language. Some of the words in Arabic, some of the words in English. Technical words in English. So the more you -- only for --
we were able to -- the more you have more English and less Arabic. So this is one way. And the third way is doing support activities related to every -- everything that you are learning. So if you -- if you do math, you do support activity in language, specifically for math.
>> Sonia Su Herring: And there was a second question. Yes, a second participant? Then we'll get to Doreen.
>> My name is Josephine, an ISOC ambassador. My question is through my walk with women in Kenya, the challenge we face is that when ever we like we do digital training for them, but then after that, when they go home, they don't have access to devices or the internet is very expensive. So how can we be able to develop affordable access to devices and also the internet for women.
>> Sonia Su Herring: So is it for all of the panelists?
Because we're running out of time. Who would like to take that?
(comments off mic)
>> Sonia Su Herring: Answer her quickly and then maybe two more and close.
>> Roia: We have challenges in Afghanistan, many of the girls do not have access to the computer or internet connections. Now with the devices are becoming cheaper and cheaper, it's easier to have a smart phone, a smart phone that costs $50, $60 and they can connect it to the internet, but actually they started in India. We had hoped to bring those devices to Afghanistan that other girls may have access to devices that are at a cheaper and affordable cost. But in Afghanistan, we also have 3-G access. So the only thing for many of the goings to know how to use the technology and to know how to use the internet. And I think it's the same for many of the countries, once they have access, then what is this? What is this device and how they can use it with the internet connection, they can find out how they can get affordable costs and affordable internet connection, depending again, to the government and many of the organizations like Google is working in India and there are also the Facebook that they're providing the internet connections and just sending the messages in the smart phones. And it probably in the near future we can have more access to -- to technology.
>> Sonia Su Herring: Now that you mentioned Google and Facebook. I want to take advantage. So what do you all feel about the free services that they are providing? Is it productive? Is it beneficial? Or are you against it -- like things like free basics and internet.org. Does it help?
>> Roia: Like Google.com, I guess, one of the first things that it was used for us very well. We find a lot of the information free. So sometimes the free is good. But I understand sometimes the free also carries a problem because you gave a lot of information, your personal data that they will take advantage of that.
And one of the things that I feel like many of these big companies, they grew and grew and get bigger and bigger it's good to give back to the communities that they get the benefit of.
>> Sonia Su Herring: So maybe 50-50 then? Okay. Final questions, yes, please, Doreen?
>> Doreen Bogdan Martin: I'll try to be brief. So congratulations to our three winners. It's great to hear more about what you're doing. Often in the U.N. we talk a lot. What's great about having you all here is we see the concrete actions that can really make a difference in bridging the digital gender gap. And thank you so much for highlighting the challenges that you have -- you have all faced. In rolling out your initiatives.
I wondered if you could very briefly comment on how you think you could scale your initiatives, either within your countries or in other countries? And also if you're measuring what happens after, so what happens after women and girls are in your programs, are you able to follow where they go next? Thank you.
>> I will answer the last question first because we are at the pilot phase, so we do not have this kind of information yet.
As for the scalability, we are -- what we're doing is that we are using digital library and partnering with partners and hoping to scale our content world-wide using international concept. Also, we strongly believe in cultural identity and differences. So we are trying to balance between both approaches.
>> Kimlie: In our case, we are exactly at this moment in the scaling up of the project to Central America. Then what we have done first is to develop like a model for now, a draft model, yes? But in other cases, we have organization counterparts in each country, yes? And then we are loving now the draft model. We are integrating lessons learned from other organizations in central America to grow out these models with the experiences of others. We also liked working in networks and also something very important is that alliance -- the alliances we are working to create alliances, for instance, with the university, with private sectors, in each country in central America to support the process we're trying to scale up. Then for us is very important, the networking and the alliances with multi-stakeholders in all of the countries to really do the scaleup.
We also have a measuring model, yes? It's not -- it's based in a few indicators, but a lot of history -- stories, yes? And then it's more basically the stories of change than in the measurement. We feel that all we can relate with women actions is very much reflected in stories than in numbers, but we combine both but we like the stories.
>> Roia: We want to extend it over to Brazil and Mexico and other countries and also Asia as well. One of the things we started is partnering with a company they do recycling technology so whatever day we found our partners are giving second-hand computers or electronic devices, this company will collect them and they send the profits of the devices to the foundation. And then other things we want to do is partnering with the different organization to extend it to other countries. But for in terms of measuring, we do two. One is traditional. We do the survey and see what's happening in our program. And if we'll see if we have some mistakes in our program, then we will change it for new programs. But as we mentioned, it's cool but most important thing is how much we have to develop this program.
So I mentioned of the financial literacy, it was game changing because we had a lot of successful stories come out of the program. So we want to look at how much we can impact and how much we have the stories that bring more impact into society.
In the past we had to contact with the students to our platform that -- for the platform, we had to communicate with the students who graduated. When we shut down the platform, we find out it's very difficult to know what's happening in their lives. So now with the new project we have this in parking place that the students will now register and we will have a longer term to have communication with them.
>> Sonia Su Herring: So unfortunately, we're running out of time and it was an honor to be on the panel with all of you amazing women. And thank you for inviting me as well. And, Karla, please closing remarks.
>> Karla: Thank you very much. Good morning, it was very hard to give some good remarks at the end of this inspiring discussion.
It is also very, very exciting as Doreen said before to learn more about you and to understand what the challenges are. We have still a long way to go. We learned a lot about the stereotypes, the violence against women and girls. So we really need to work all together and this is what EQUALS is all about. We recognize many partners in the audience, of course, Germany, and Switzerland and Facebook. So thank you again for being partners of EQUALS. But also our research members, EQUALS research members like the University of Egypt. So thank you again.
This is, again, is what EQUALS is trying to do. So it really wants to scale up projects, but we also want to learn and we also want to share information. So -- so we hope to -- to -- I mean to continue this discussion, I mean, today is just the beginning. But I want to continue the discussion in the next month. So follow us on-line and follow our role models and thank you again for being here.
>> Sonia Su Herring: Thank you everyone for being here.
[ Applause ]
>> Sonia Su Herring: I declare the session closed.