Digital Connectivity

Our goal
To reduce the gender gap in digital connectivity so women and girls can more fully participate and thrive in the economy of today and tomorrow.
The Babyl offices in Kigali, Rwanda. Babyl is a digital healthcare provider that combines technology with the knowledge of experienced doctors. 
The Babyl offices in Kigali, Rwanda. Babyl is a digital healthcare provider that combines technology with the knowledge of experienced doctors. ©Gates Archive/Samantha Reinders

At a glance

  • Our work supports a digital future that reduces burdens on women and girls, fosters their aspirations, and supports their health and resilience and the well-being of their families and communities.
  • Meaningful digital connectivity gives women more control over their health, home, and livelihood, but multiple barriers stand in the way, including lack of access, low digital literacy, and online safety issues.
  • We work to better understand what works to close the gender digital divide and to create opportunities for more women and girls to take advantage of the internet and digital technologies and the opportunities they provide.
  • In seeking to understand the gender-specific barriers, disadvantages, and vulnerabilities related to digital adoption and connectivity, we ask two questions: What needs to change to make this technology or tool as or more useful for women as for men? And how could this technology be deployed to overcome a barrier to women’s equality and empowerment?

Our strategy

We collaborate closely with teams across the foundation on digital interventions that can accelerate the closure of the gender digital divide. We do this by supporting action-oriented research and innovation and the development and testing of tools and platforms, as well as through advocacy and by connecting researchers.

Why focus on digital connectivity?

Digital connectivity is increasingly vital for managing one’s health, generating income, and participating in the economy. Many mobile-based interventions have emerged to benefit low-income people, including digital financial services, digital agricultural advisory tools, and mobile health tools. But despite growing investments in digital solutions for health and development, women continue to be left behind across geographies and income segments.

For example, while the expansion of affordable, high-speed broadband in South Asia has narrowed the gender gap in mobile phone ownership and internet use, the same is not true in sub-Saharan Africa. This means African women are limited in their ability to take advantage of many opportunities to improve their lives.

Strategy leadership

Janet Zhou
Janet Zhou
Director, Strategy and Interim Director, Digital Connectivity
Janet Zhou advises teams across the foundation on the development and execution of their strategies.
Jamie M. Zimmerman
Jamie M. Zimmerman
Deputy Director, Digital Connectivity
Jamie M. Zimmerman leads the foundation’s work to accelerate closure of the gender digital divide and enhance meaningful digital connectivity to improve the lives and livelihoods of women and girls.