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Digital divide

At a glance

The digital divide refers to inequality relating access to and opportunities to use digital technologies. 3.9 billion people – over half of the world’s population – have no access to the internet. In Africa, just 31.2 percent of the population has access. To implement the Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development, equal opportunities must be created for all – especially in the digital age. The Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development has undertaken to help enable access to the digital transformation for marginalised groups and by doing so, to close the global digital divide.

Closing the digital divide

The overarching principle of “leaving no-one behind” of Agenda 2030 also applies to the digital realm. The Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development campaigns to ensure that digitalisation provides equal opportunities in a way that also provides disadvantaged groups of society with affordable, reliable and secure access and overcomes the current digital divides.

In total, four typical reasons have been identified why people are unwilling or unable to use the internet:

  1. Access: Lack of technical access to ICT
  2. Affordability: High costs of ICT access
  3. Skills: Lack of application knowledge / e-skills
  4. Interest: Lack of adequate content (in certain languages), lack of awareness regarding the value offered by the internet


Measurements of the BMZ

Accordingly, the BMZ is taking various measures to reduce these digital divides. Together with partners from politics, business, research and civil society, the Federal Government is identifying technological and innovation approaches in developing and emergency markets through these development partnerships that can contribute to overcoming the digital divide. For example, the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development has been supporting Africa Code Week since 2015, an initiative that aims to encourage digital skills and programming skills among youth. With the support of the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, the participation ratio is almost 50 % girls and 50 % boys.

The Marshall Plan with Africa elucidates the opportunities that digitalisation provides in all walks of life. Specifically, it lays out the need to “develop digital infrastructure and invest in human skills”, because without affordable digital infrastructure, digital development will hardly be possible. To change this, the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development has already invested in broadband cabling and cost-effective network infrastructure, for example with the laying of the “East Africa Submarine Cable System” (EAS-Sy). This support from the German development partnerships has since enabled fast and low-cost internet access for up to 250 million people for the first time.

The initiative “All Africa Digital Economy Moonshot #DigitalAfrica” of the World Bank (WB) was initiated in 2018 and pursues the objective of ensuring that “every African individual, business and government is digitally enabled by 2030”. By way of a coordinated, pan-African initiative, all countries on the continent are expected to establish relevant governmental schemes and measures jointly with development partners and the private sector as a catalyst for the digital transformation of Africa. Germany is committed to this initiative through its G7 contributions, political engagement and its leadership in supporting digital projects for the African continent. The digital lighthouse project “Africa House” enables African users to gain qualifications for the digital jobs of the future through the e-learning platform atingi with innovative digital knowledge and learning services.


Gender equality programmes

Gender equality is an explicit goal of German development cooperation. The Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development aims to accomplish this goal by following a human rights-based approach. The cross-sectoral plan for gender equality in German development cooperation (2014) is a mandatory guideline for structuring German development cooperation provided by the Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development and the implementing organisations and defines the ground rules for the activities. The implementing organisations of German governmental development cooperation systematically review planned projects for possible unintended negative consequences as well as opportunities to promote gender equality. New digitalisation projects, for example, undergo ex-ante project reviews that include gender analyses in which the positive gender opportunities and gender risks (negative gender impacts) are analysed and possible countermeasures or compensatory measures are identified.

The BMZ promotes female role models in the tech industry in order to combat stereotypes and to show women and girls around the world what opportunities await them in the ICT industry. Women who have successfully established themselves in the IT industry provide inspiration for young women and girls, who can go on to learn more about STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) and digital professions.

In addition, the KfW, a German state-owned development bank, is carrying out 58 ongoing digitalisation-related programmes in which gender equality is a primary or secondary goal on behalf of the German federal government. They include programmes that use innovative digital technologies to help give women and girls better, equal access to important health care services; the promotion of women and girls in training programmes with ICT components; and the provision of microfinance to impoverished households and women in particular through mobile banking.



The Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development launched the #eSkills4Girls initiative while Germany held the G20 Presidency in 2017. The initiative, which provides EUR 8 million in funding to projects in Cameroon, Mozambique, Ghana and Rwanda, aims to improve the educational and employment prospects of women and girls in an increasingly digitalised world.

To translate political agreements into practical action, the Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development, working in cooperation with partners from the worlds of politics, industry, research and civil society, carries out 14 programmes under the #eSkills4Girls banner to improve the digital skills of women and girls in developing countries, such as:

  • Promoting female role models in the tech industry (see “Women in Tech”)
  • Network of female tech entrepreneurs to support learning
  • Strategic partnerships with industry to promote local innovation
  • Online platform for promoting the transfer of knowledge
  • Execution of #eSkills4Girls projects (in places such as Cameroon, Mozambique, South Africa, Rwanda)
  • Involvement in EQUALS, the global partnership for gender equality in the digital age. The EQUALS Digital Skills Fund supports grassroots initiatives in scaling up their projects to promote the digital skills of women and girls. The Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development has provided a total of EUR 400,000 in funding for the EQUALS Secretariat and the EQUALS Digital Skills Fund.
  • Support for Africa Code Week, an initiative to promote programming skills. The initiative hosted 20 digital skills workshops for women and girls in 2018, among other things.


Woman in Tech

Women are seriously underrepresented in the tech industry. They only hold 24 % of all industry jobs, creating a shortage of female role models that could encourage young women and girls to enter this industry. Women in Tech is a book project that shows that women around the world have overcome social pressures and obstacles in the tech scene to succeed. 30 unique women from 22 countries have been portrayed by a collective of authors and two talented illustrators, all women themselves. Their goal is to put the challenges that women face on the political agenda and give this issue more public visibility. Worldreader, a non-profit organisation, digitally formatted the Women in Tech book and translated the stories of women in the tech industry into short vignettes that inspire women and girls worldwide in the Worldreader app.

Available in the Google Play Store (Android) or as a web application.

Further information