In late October 2014, I travelled to Busan, Republic of Korea, to collect one of the first GEM-Tech Awards at ITU’s 2014 Plenipotentiary Conference. I was deeply honored to accept the award on behalf of the 40,000 marginalized young students of iMerit and our sister company, Anudip Foundation, who have been mainstreamed into digital jobs and now benefit from sustainable livelihoods in the fast-growing digital economy.
The annual awards, jointly organized by ITU and UN Women, recognize and celebrate outstanding performers and role models in gender equality and mainstreaming in information and communication technology (ICT). ‘Gender equality and mainstreaming’ is as much about ICT, government and development actors who are mainstreaming gender equality perspectives in their work, as ICT and gender advocates who are seeking to ‘mainstream’ gender equality into a larger context.
A video of the finalists presented at the awards ceremony showed just how strong the competition was – every project and individual was inspiring, doing work that is setting new standards for the ICT sector. The 2014 GEM-Tech Award winners – UNESCO, Women in African History: An E-Learning Tool (Africa); BCS, the Chartered Institute for IT (UK); the Research Center for Feminist Action (CIPAF) (Dominican Republic); Telecentre.org Foundation, Telecentre Women (Philippines); the Association for Progressive Communications (APC), Take Back the Tech! (South Africa); and the Federal Ministry of Communication Technology (Nigeria) – all have their own inspiring stories of working towards gender mainstreaming in technology.
iMerit specializes in the provision of digital services coupled with the creation of significant social impact, and we received the award for the category ‘ICT Applications, Content, Production Capacities and Skills for Women’s Economic Empowerment and Poverty Reduction’.
Participation in the digital economy isn’t simply about access, it’s equally tied to education and awareness. Our focus is on upskilling and mainstreaming marginalized youth, with an emphasis on women from rural areas, bringing them into the global workforce for the first time. We use an integrated business model with a four-step process of empowering disadvantaged youth through mobilization, training, employment, and up-skilling in IT project services.
As a woman in my second CEO role, I hope that this award provides encouragement to women everywhere to realize their full potential. The global recognition that the award conferred has enabled us to secure digital services projects from large technology companies and allowed us to substantially increase the skills and earnings of our women. Governments and NGOs from many countries have approached us to replicate our integrated model of technology skilling, micro-entrepreneurship and digital services.
The women at iMerit believe strongly in market-based solutions to promote equality. They do not wish to be beneficiaries of UN agencies and large corporations – they want these organizations to become clients for our world class digital services. Our dream is to become a mini-Facebook, eBay or Alibaba, with women as equal shareholders in the global Internet economy.
That is real digital gender mainstreaming.
Radha Basu, founder and CEO of iMerit
Radha Ramaswami Basu has over 30 years’ experience in executive management and is widely recognized as a leading woman technology entrepreneur and a pioneer in the Indian software business. Radha grew Hewlett Packard’s electronic business software division into a $1.5 billion business. Radha then held the position of Chairman & CEO of Support.com, a Nasdaq-listed company, which she led through initial and secondary public offerings. After retiring from SupportSoft, Radha and her husband Dipak Basu launched Anudip Foundation, a social enterprise in India with the mission of generating livelihood opportunities for the unemployed and marginalized poor through training in information technology.
A note from ITU:
2015 is an important year for gender equality. It marks the 20 year anniversary of the Beijing Platform for Action which will look at efforts that have used ICTs to mobilize progress in its implementation. Additionally, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will be agreed on by the international community in September, outlining a new era for global development. Gender equality and women’s empowerment is a central goal and ICTs have been recognized as a key means of implementation in its current draft. The GEM-Tech Awards highlight international best practices, illustrating where initiatives can be scaled-up and further investments should be made.
Don’t miss the 31 July 2015 deadline for your chance to nominate yourself or others who have done exceptional work in the area of gender equality and mainstreaming in/through technology for a GEM-TECH 2015 Award. Nominations can be submitted to three categories: application of technology for women’s empowerment; promotion of women in the technology sector; and development of gender responsive ICT governance, policy and access.