The World Bank Group, one of the largest sources of funding and knowledge for developing countries, partnered with CES—the world’s most influential technology event—to launch a Global Tech Challenge to bridge the digital gender divide.
In low-and-middle-income countries, over 300 million fewer women are able to access the internet than men and are left out of the opportunities created by digital technologies. Addressing this widening gap is crucial, particularly during crises, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, when connectivity is key.
“ From increasing access to connectivity and information for women in rural areas to mentoring isolated female entrepreneurs, the winners of this challenge are tackling the digital gender divide on multiple fronts. The World Bank Group is pleased to work with the selected innovators so that women and girls worldwide can fully embrace the opportunities offered by digital transformation," said Boutheina Guermazi, the World Bank’s Director of Digital Development.
Supported by the World Bank’s Digital Development Practice, whose mission is to achieve connectivity for all, the challenge rewards scalable and innovative technological solutions that seek to increase digital access, skills and opportunities for women.
The winning solutions, listed below, were evaluated by a panel of leading experts from Microsoft 4Afrika Initiatives, GSMA, SoftBank, the International Telecommunication Union, IBM and The Female Quotient.
The three winners of the Global Tech Challenge: Solutions for Women are:
- Bridge for Billions is a digital entrepreneurship ecosystem and mentoring platform for early-stage entrepreneurs, focused on inclusivity and affordability. Since its creation in 2015, it has supported 717 female entrepreneurs from 70+ countries.
“Being awarded as an innovative solution that seeks to empower women is an honor as we work to democratize access to quality entrepreneurship training, mentoring, and business opportunities globally. At a gender ratio of 46% female to 54% male, we are eliminating the bias against female entrepreneurs through our entrepreneurship programs,” said Pablo Santaeufemia, CEO and co-founder of Bridge for Billions.
- MicroMentor, a program of Mercy Corp, is a free mentoring platform which connects entrepreneurs and volunteer business mentors. Through MicroMentor, 12,481 women entrepreneurs have received business mentoring and opportunities.
“With support and recognition from the World Bank and CES, we will be able to expand our reach to new partners and funders to provide critical business mentoring support to more women-led SMEs. Women entrepreneurs have been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and business mentoring is a critical resource for impacting their survival and resilience,” said Anita Ramachandran, MicroMentor Executive Director.
- Soochnapreneur is an entrepreneurship program by the Digital Empowerment Foundation which connects India’s rural citizens to information, rights, government entitlements and other necessary digital services. Since its creation, it has trained 25,000 rural women to further empower more than 5 million rural women in India.
“We are strongly committed to the idea that connecting women to communication and information technologies will end up benefiting the development of society at large. Therefore, the prospect of scaling our innovation and reaching more is thrilling for all of us working on the Soochnapreneur program and we look forward to engaging with World Bank Group teams to create a greater impact,” said Osama Manzar, founder of the Digital Empowerment Foundation.
Winners will receive global visibility, the opportunity to engage with governments and World Bank Group teams, as well as the tools to potentially scale their technologies within development projects.