Technology can change lives. It can change the way we look at the world and enhance equality.
The beginning of contraceptive technologies, leading to the invention of the Pill, and the possibility for its produce and distribution in large numbers, changed lives in the western world in the 1960’s. Women gained control over so much more than the words ‘birth control’ suspect. This is just one of the many examples of how technology has advanced women’s rights. As a matter of fact, I would argue that women’s rights and technology have always gone hand in hand. Think of the invention of kitchen appliances and washing machines. Housewives were suddenly able to finish their traditional house-keeping chores much faster, allowing them to take up other interests or work part-time.
Women’s inequality is a worldwide problem. But it is nowhere more visible than it is in underdeveloped, rural areas. Many women do not benefit from the invention of household appliances or have no birth control to their disposal. Such women spend most of their day performing household tasks; looking after the children, cleaning the house, cooking and walking for miles to find clean water. Often, boys are sent to schools, but girls are required to stay home and help with the chores. The resulting lack of education makes it even more difficult for the girls to fight for their rights.
So what will be the next ‘Pill’ or washing machine in the lives of women? I believe it will be the Internet. I think that equal access to information will change the position of women in this world even more than the Pill did in the Western world in the 1960’s. Internet for everyone has the possibility do bring knowledge to girls, connect women, it can even get them loans so they can start their own business. Internet access changes lives.
Have a look at Google’s innovative ‘Project Loon’, which aims to make internet available to everyone. How will they do this? With a network of balloons, designed to survive 20 km up in the stratosphere and powered by solar panels, which will extend Internet connectivity to people in rural and remote areas worldwide. Predictive weather models move the balloon up or down using the wind to navigate them to the right spot. By making internet available to people in even the most remote areas, this project may be capable to be the next step in women’s equal rights. Women can connect with other women. Girls can educate themselves online when they are not able to go to school. Single mothers can start a business, save up, and help their children.
Together, connected, they can start building their own future.
written by: Ilse de Jonge