Seven outstanding individuals and organizations leading pioneering projects and advocacy linked to harnessing the power of information and communication technologies (ICTs) to boost gender empowerment were honoured this morning as recipients of the first-ever GEM-TECH Awards.
The awards were conferred by ITU Secretary-General Dr Hamadoun I. Touré before some 2,500 delegates at a special ceremony in the morning Plenary session of the ITU Plenipotentiary Conference currently taking place in Busan, Republic of Korea. The event was introduced by leading Korean TV personality Jie-ae Sohn, a journalist with 25 years' experience as a correspondent for some of the world's leading media channels. .
Co-organized with UN Women, the GEM-TECH Awards recognize the outstanding achievements of organizations and individuals in the area of gender equality and mainstreaming through information and communication technology (ICT). The launch of the awards in June of this year prompted over 360 nominations from over 70 countries around the world. The awards were open to leading women and men, as well as organizations working in the field of ICT and gender.
The seven GEM-TECH winnersin various categories were: UNESCO's Women in Africa's History e-Learning project Africa under applications, content, production capacities and skills for women's social and political empowerment and links with sustainable development category.
Under the ICT applications, content, production capacities and skills for women's economic empowerment and poverty reduction the winner was iMerit Technology, India
The third category was Promoting Women in the ICT sector - initiatives to attract, retain and promote women in the ICT sector and into decision-making roles (public/private sector) and the first place was taken by BCS Chartered Institute for IT,United Kingdom
Under enabling girls to become ICT creators category, Research Center for Feminist Action (CIPAF) from Dominican Republic emerged winners.
The fifth category was closing the ICT gender gap, ensuring ICT accessibility for women, such as digital literacy training and ensuring affordable and meaningful access to ICTs by women and the winner was Telecentre.org Foundation from Philippines .Category six was on efforts to reduce online threats and to build women's confidence and security in the use of ICTs and the winner was Association for Progressive Communications (APC), South Africa
And finally Category 7, ICT and broadband strategies, policies and frameworks that promote women's digital empowerment the first position was taken by Federal Ministry of Communication Technology from Nigeria
The awards were sponsored by Gold Partners the Sultanate of Oman, the Republic of Rwanda, the Swiss Confederation, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and Silver Partners Cisco Systems and Facebook.
Congratulating the seven winners out of a field of 37 finalists, ITU's Dr Touré praised the exceptionally high quality of nominations, and stressed that much still needs to be done to leverage the full power of ICTs to improve the lives of women and men.
"It is almost 20 years since the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action - so where do we stand today with reference to Gender Equality and Mainstreaming?" asked Dr Touré, who pointed to a 'gender digital divide' that is particularly worrying in the developing world. "ITU estimates that some 200 million fewer women are online compared to men. Women are coming online later, and more slowly. Without remedial action, it is estimated that the internet gender gap could grow to 350 million within three or four years. Equality in access to broadband is not only an issue of right and wrong; it also makes commercial and economic sense," he said.
UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka said "We need all of you to join our efforts, so that these inspiring GEM-TECH winners and others working at the forefront of digital inclusion are leading a turning point for women's digital empowerment through technology."
This morning's ceremony also recognized six GEM-TECH 'Global Achievers' - organizations and individuals recognized for exceptional long-term commitment to furthering the issue of ICT and gender. They are: Alcatel-Lucent's StrongHer initiative; Cisco Systems' Distinguished Consulting Engineer, Monique Morrow; Academy Award winning actor and advocate Geena Davis; GSMA's Connected Women programme; Intel Corporation's Director of Social Impact, Renee Wittemyer, and former Serbian Minister of Communications and State Secretary for Digital Agenda, Jasna Matić.
The award ceremony was followed later in the day by a lunchtime GEM-TECH High Level Dialogue, where winners and partners had the opportunity to showcase their projects and initiatives, and where other experts from industry, civil society and government joined a stimulating debate on the topic of 'Gender and ICTs: why gender equality matters and where do we stand today?', moderated by Korea's Jie-ae Sohn. The GEM-TECH HLD can be viewed on archived webcast in seven languages at: www.itu.int/pp14/webcast.
The day's ICT and gender-related activities will wrap up this evening with an exclusive gala dinner event held at Nurimaru APEC House on Busan's Dongbaekseon Island.