Owning a mobile phone and having access to the internet can change lives. For women in developing countries, the internet can be a gateway to educational opportunities and help them build their confidence, self-esteem and self-determination.
Yet millions of women are unable to take advantage of the mobile internet. The main reasons for this are lack of literacy and digital skills. About 500 million women worldwide can neither read nor write.
We are leaving women behind in an increasingly connected world. Those who are most likely to benefit from mobile internet are still the furthest away from accessing it. We can right this wrong by making the internet more inclusive. We can help create localized, relevant content and deliver it through accessible user interfaces.
This is what Open Source for Equality is all about. The aim of OSEQ is to bring together software developers, content creators, development organizations and to create local ecosystems where open software for development thrives. OSEQ-powered projects have been implemented in Nigeria, India, Pakistan, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, Ethiopia and Nicaragua.
Open Source is key to develop digital solutions designed for women that are freely available and scalable. Ideally, those solution would be locally developed by women for women. However, only 6% of all open source contributors worldwide are women - in the Global South this number is even lower.
Mentorship, role models and skills training are effective ways to build the agency of women coders. Developing a sense of comradery, through group work, to build collective solutions can reduce women’s sense of isolation and powerlessness.
At the same time, it is true that there is no amount of skills training and mentoring of women that will resolve the gender socialisation of young girls and boys, the pervasive gender norms and values it produces, or the toxic masculinity of some online open source communities.
This is why we are building Open Source for Equality. A beginner-friendly, safe space for women to participate in open source projects that promote gender equality.