UN New York, CSocD59 - MMM takes the opportunity of the upcoming 59th Session of the UN Commission on Social Development (CSocD59, Feb 8th to 17th), to draw attention to the role of digital technologies in mothers’ lives, their potential benefits and the challenges they pose.
Digital technology has already transformed societies and economies in many parts of the world, opening new ways to communicate, changing lifestyles and creating new types of employment. Information and Communication Technologies (ICT), in particular mobile technology, can notably benefit and improve the quality of life of families in remote areas, through access to health, education and financial services, fostering more inclusiveness.
Mobile Applications that have the potential to most benefit mothers and their children are those that support maternal and child health, or women’s financial independence (through “mobile money” or other financial services).
Mobile health (mHealth) applications are proving particularly promising for health promotion and education, as well as remote access to health services, thereby contributing to the realization of several SDG targets, notably target 3.1 (on Maternal mortality) and target 4.2 (Early Childhood Education & Care).
ICTs can also contribute to reduce the time that mothers spend on unpaid family care work, simply by facilitating everyday life through easy communication and remote access to information and public services.
Unfortunately, many of these benefits remain elusive, especially for marginalized populations. Digital technology also creates new inequalities or exacerbates existing ones. Digital divides are multiple and intersect to reinforce each other: for many mothers, the gender digital divide is compounded by the urban/rural divide, social norms and gender stereotypes, as well as disparities in income, education and digital literacy.
In most cases, access is linked to pre-existing infrastructures, beginning with electricity. Even though electrification has been accelerating in the past years, the UN estimates that 850 million people remain without this basic service. And even when families have access to electricity and networks, affordability of services and devices remains an issue.
Even if they can access the Internet, mothers face specific challenges made even more acute and visible because of the Covid-19 crisis:
These challenges must urgently be recognized and addressed, by both governments and the private sector.
In this particular context, MMM makes several recommendations and calls on governments and other stakeholders to:
The pandemic starkly challenges the choices that societies will have to make to build a better future for all and how this can be achieved. As noted by the UN Secretary General, “We are at a turning point. We urgently need to harness the infinite opportunities offered by digital technology in order to scale up our efforts on health care, on the climate crisis, on eradicating poverty and across all the Sustainable Development Goals.”
The 59th session of the UN Commission on Social Development (CSocD59) will take place 8-18 February 2021 with “Socially just transition towards sustainable development: the role of digital technologies on social development and well-being of all” as the priority theme.
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