Creating opportunities for women during the digital transformation process in Vietnam

Today, the world has been developing with an unprecedented digitisation speed, and especially the COVID-19 pandemic has become a "catalyst" to accelerate the digital transformation process. In the first two decades of the 21st century alone, the number of people connected to the internet around the world increased from 350 million to more than 4 billion, and the number of mobile phone users also increased from 750 million to more than 5 billion.
Female workers at 76 One Member Limited Company in Gia Lam District, Hanoi. (Photo: Nguyen Dang)

It can be affirmed that digital transformation is the inevitable trend of the era of technological revolution 4.0 and will be associated with the development of the digital economy, digital society and digital government. The achievements of digital transformation and technological innovation have contributed to improving the quality of people’s lives in general and women in particular, helping them expand their opportunities to access information and knowledge of humanity, as well as improve high capacity, professional qualifications and career development opportunities.

Besides the opportunities, there are also many challenges. It can be seen that unprecedented new relationships may arise; traditional relationships may be interrupted or terminated; the organisations and enterprises may go bankrupt or be replaced; there may be a shortage of digital transformation human resources; people do not have enough necessary digital skills; the network safety and security, personal data and personal privacy of people on cyberspace are threatened. In addition, information technology and digital transformation can also create new barriers, increasing the gender gap in some areas, due to the different impacts of technology on women and men, in many aspects of life.

An international study found that an additional 600 million women and girls accessing online services around the world, could lead to a global GDP increase of 18 billion USD. However, globally on average, the number of women using smartphones is 26% lower than that of men. According to a population living standard survey in 2021, the percentage of people having access to the internet and telephone is quite high, but there is still a gap between women and men. The percentage of women using the internet is 70% compared to 78% of men. The percentage of women using the phone is 87% compared to 93% of men. According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), female workers account for about 37% of the workforce in the technology sector in Vietnam, higher than the world (25%). However, the majority of women working in the technology sector are still primarily in other positions such as testing, marketing, sales, administration and human resources, rather than technical roles such as software development staff.

The social norms and expectations about the role of women in the family are one of the barriers for women and girls in accessing digital technology, leading to the reduction of opportunities for their education and employment in the field of information technology. Meanwhile, information technology has been changing employment models. Accordingly, some jobs will require fewer workers, in which female workers will be affected more. Women and girls are also vulnerable groups to violence in the online environment.

At a policy dialogue themed “Gender equality in digital transformation in Vietnam: Opportunities and challenges” held by the United Nations in Vietnam, in collaboration with the Ministry of Labour, War Invalids and Social Affairs and the National Committee for the Advancement of Women, Deputy Minister of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs Nguyen Thi Ha said, the awareness of gender issues arising in the context of digital transformation, will help relevant agencies perfect the policy and legal framework, creating favourable conditions for women and girls to gain more opportunities to participate in this field. Therefore, raising awareness of educational opportunities and the removal of gender stereotypes in curricula and career orientation, especially in training activities related to science, technology, engineering and mathematics, is seen as the key to strengthening women's participation in digital transformation, she added.

The UN Resident Coordinator in Vietnam Pauline Tamesis also said that it is essential to review the gender impacts on innovation and technology while identifying recommendations for the digital transformation process. In that context, the UN in Vietnam made several proposals for discussion as follows, ensuring a gender perspective in national policies on technology and allocating resources for full implementation, enhancing quality education for women and girls, anticipating future job needs and required skills, increasing data collection and addressing gender-based violence via an online environment.