The University of Kigali has on Saturday, June 26, 2022 hosted a Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) side event on gender digital divide. Organised in partnership with the Commonwealth Businesswomen’s Network and other partners including CEGL, Startup Genome, Global Entrepreneurship Network, GSMA, Institute of Export & International Trade, IOSH and Bloomsbury Radio, the event had the theme “Technology and Innovation: An Agenda for Rwanda’s Term as Commonwealth Chair” and took place at Hotel Villa Portofino, Kigali. It had different participants representing different members of the Commonwealth either in policy-making, academia or private sector. All speakers at the event emphasized on enhancing digital transformation to support vulnerable women, as well as the youth. Paula Ingabire, the Minister of ICT and Innovation who was the Guest of Honor at the event called on partnerships between government, academic and private sector institutions to address the gender disparity present in the ICT sector. “Partnerships are needed to get us far and not only partnerships, but the ones with unique elements because we’ve had a lot of partnerships in the previous years,” commented Minister Ingabire. She also indicated that apart from women, digital gap among the youth also needs to be addressed. “Hence it is necessary to bring young people on board, and even if we have hope, statistics show we still have a journey, hence actions need to follow,” she observed. According to the global startup ecosystem, within 20 years from now, technology and ICT will be the world’s largest sector. On his part, Abhik Sen, the Head of Innovation and Partnerships at the Commonwealth Secretariat is of the view that we will have a free and fair world when women are given the same opportunities as their male counterparts. “We are aware that women have far less access to digital tools than their male counterparts, and until we close these gaps, we can never claim to live in a fair and free world, so that is a mission that all of us need to work collectively to achieve,” he observed. Sen then called on governments to ensure they close the gaps in a data-driven way, looking out for the evidences which tell where the gaps are, and focus on them. He reiterated that this is among the priorities of the Commonwealth. Gender digital divide is among the most important priorities of the Commonwealth and gender mainstreaming is at the heart of commonwealth values and principles, as well as practical work in terms of projects and policies, he added. According to reports shared in the summit, crucial access to digital devices by women enhances interdependence and empowerment and the woman’s phone should not be shared by family members to prevent her rights from being hampered. Arif Zaman, the Executive Director of Commonwealth Businesswomen’s Network called on the participants to avoid bureaucratic procedures including holding meetings without follow-up actions. “I had an opportunity to meet the Chair-elect of the Commonwealth secretariat, President Kagame and I asked him what he is focusing on as the new Chair, he told me ‘Implementation’ and I am sure all these strategies are good, but they are meaningless if they are just on a piece of paper,” he noted. “Why are we here? Just to talk about it and feel good or to talk about it and do good?”, he questioned the participants. Philibert Afrika, the co-founder and Chairman of University of Kigali’s Board of Directors also stressed on the essential role academic institutions have to play in promoting gender mainstreaming, calling on partnerships from various sectors. “When you talk about innovation, you’re talking about knowledge which is delivered from academic institutions, if we have IT-related faculties and we encourage more girls to join it, we’ll have a population that is technologically literate,” he commented. Mr. Afrika also called on academic institutions to provide high quality education relevant to the Sustainable Development Goals, carry out policy researches to map out the key challenges and advise policymakers on the actions to take in order to accelerate digital technology and innovation. The side event was among the last events closing the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM). A presentation on on gender digital divide. Arif Zaman, the Executive Director of Commonwealth Businesswomen’s Network addresses the event on June 26. Paula Ingabire, the Minister of ICT and Innovation who was the Guest of Honor at the event delivers remarks at a sideline event of the CHOGM in Kigali on June 26. Philibert Afrika, the co-founder and Chairman of University of Kigali’s Board of Directors delivers remarks during a side event of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting on gender digital divide on June 26. Philibert Afrika, the co-founder and Chairman of University of Kigali’s Board of Directors, Paula Ingabire, the Minister of ICT and Innovation and Arif Zaman, the Executive Director of Commonwealth Businesswomen’s Network.