Beyond Connectivity: How CSR is important in Equipping Girl Child with Tech Skills for Transformation

By Ms Yamini Jaipuria

Technology is advancing rapidly, transforming the world in unprecedented ways. India especially is experiencing massive digital disruption, with the digital economy expected to reach $1 trillion by 2025 per industry reports. This means that access to technology is no longer a luxury, but a necessity. It is especially true for young girls, who stand at the cusp of shaping the future. For India to fully participate in the Fourth Industrial Revolution, bridging the digital divide remains critical. Despite growing internet access, women still face a significant usage gap – only 29% of India’s 381 million internet users are female as of 2021, according to IAMAI. The gender gap in tech education and skills is even more alarming.

As per UNESCO data, women represent only 14% of AI researchers globally and 35% of STEM students in higher education. India mirrors these gaps. As per a survey by NCERT, only 36% of girls in rural India have basic digital literacy skills compared to 64% of boys. A 2021 study by Omidyar Network found that 42% of India’s women are digitally excluded due to a lack of skills. Only 1 in 10 girls in rural areas have access to education on advanced digital skills including coding and computational thinking, per a 2022 UNICEF report.

This clearly indicates that merely providing internet access is not enough. There is a need to bridge the digital divide by going beyond connectivity and fostering tech literacy and skill development. Targeted efforts in facilitating tech education for girls, especially to the economically challenged groups, are crucial to unlock their potential as creators, not just consumers, of technology.

CSR plays a key role here in inspiring inclusivity by providing quality tech education even to the most remote girl students. This can be done through various upliftment programs. With limited resource, bringing online education is key for continuity and flexibility, as this will open a plethora of opportunities and areas to explore. Organisations working towards the education sector as part of their CSR initiatives are now focusing towards virtual classrooms, interactive online modules and video tutorials to enable continuous self-paced tech learning. This transition was fuelled especially during the pandemic, and now is being amplified with the rising internet and mobile penetration. However, the job here is to incorporate digital content in local languages that would encourage learning. Blended learning models, combining online and on-site instruction, will allow for greater participation.

Building digital infrastructure and access is crucial as a base. CSR funding for digital labs, devices and internet connectivity in schools, including rural areas, can provide the enabling infrastructure. Tech access should be paired with digital literacy programs on online safety, ethics and positive use to develop responsible digital citizenship. CSR initiatives should also be focussed towards facilitating educator training and ongoing support. Equipping teachers with digital toolkits, virtual learning techniques, and training will help take quality tech education to scale. It’s possible only when educators become proficient instructors of coding, robotics and other fields, will inspire the young girls to explore the area. Early mentoring and intervention for STEM skills will definitely have a profound impact as we march towards the nation’s vision of self-reliance.

Further, CSR initiatives should promote and create paths for digital skills training in coding, data analytics, AI and more; this will boost girls’ capabilities as tech creators and innovators. Alongside the school curriculum, hands-on learning through immersive programs on app development, computational thinking, and design thinking will empower girls to pursue STEM higher education and careers.

Multi-stakeholder collaboration is key for this systemic impact. As change makers, it is our responsibility to facilitate CSR partnerships with NGOs, communities, government education boards and the private sector to drive this large-scale change. Our honourable President Droupadi Murmu stressed on the fact that women development was among the ideals of freedom struggle in the country. To turn this vision to reality, a framework is crucial for girl education; especially in equipping girl child with tech skills for transformation that extends beyond digital connectivity.


(The author is Ms Yamini Jaipuria, Managing Trustee, Cosmo Foundation & Zigly Foundation, and the views expressed  in this article are her own)