DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality

As we celebrate this year’s International Women’s Day which falls on Wednesday, 8 March 2023, under the theme “DigitALL: Innovation and Technology for Gender Equality”, I wish to draw attention to the inequalities that continue to persist around women’s access to technology and their freedom to innovate.

Women’s Day is a special day dedicated to honouring the social, economic, cultural, and political accomplishments of women and the progress made towards gender equality.

However, there is still much work to be done to ensure that women are equitably represented in all spheres of society, including the championing of innovation and adoption of technology.

In many parts of the world, women still face immense difficulty in accessing services such as banking, insurance, and various other services.

According to World Bank data, women are 9 percent less likely than men to have a bank account, and 6 percent less likely to have borrowed from a financial institution.

More worryingly, women are 20 to 30 percent less likely to access formal credit. Disparities like these severely limit women’s economic opportunities and reduce their ability to save, invest and build wealth.

These disparities in Zambia have been brought into focus in the wake of recent calls by Honourable Elias Mubanga, Minister of Small and Medium Enterprise Development, who has challenged financial institutions to rise to the occasion and address financing disparities particularly for women.

As an award winning leading regional financial services provider that offers innovative financial solutions to Zambians, Octagon Financial Services Zambia has recommitted itself to addressing some of these disparities and empowering women to achieve their financial goals.

The company continues to deploy creative digital insurance and pension management products that cater to the needs of women, including property management, training and actuarial services.

Octagon Financial Services also provides financial education and literacy programmes to help women build their financial knowledge and skills.

These programmes aim to promote financial inclusion, reduce the gender gap in financial services, and empower women to make better informed financial decisions.

As we commemorate International Women’s Day, it is also essential to recognize the role that financial services can play in advancing gender equality.

By providing women with access to financial products and services, we can empower them to achieve their economic goals, support their families, and contribute to their communities’ development.

However, it is not enough to just provide women with access to financial services; we also need to ensure that the services are designed to meet their unique needs.

This includes developing products that are affordable, accessible, and most importantly tailored to the specific challenges that women face. In addition, the products must incorporate technology to offer a seamless experience to the end user.

Octagon Financial Services Limited Zambia recognizes the importance of designing products and services that are gender sensitive and responsive to today’s innovation and technological needs for all consumers.

The company remains committed to promoting gender equality in financial services and empowering women to achieve their financial goals by including women in its leadership team as well as at the core operations of the organisation at regional level.

In closing, International Women’s Day reminds us of the need to celebrate our own success as women, recognize the progress made towards gender equality, and reflect on the work that remains to be done in order to achieve a digitally inclusive society that utilises innovation and technology for gender equality.

The author is Managing Director of Octagon Financial Services Limited Zambia.

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