STEM Current Affairs - 2019

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UNESCO: Women still under-represented in Science and Technology

According to analysis by The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), women remain considerably under-represented across STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) studies and careers.

Key Highlights

  • Statistics: According to UNESCO, globally only 29% of those in science research and development (R&D) are women, with a low 19% in south and west Asia and high 48% in central Asia.
  • Reason: Most young women do not identify with STEM studies or careers and assume that these subjects would not align with their desire to be creative and make an impact in world.
  • Consequences: As per experts this trend would further widen the gender gap in technology world and by shying away from STEM Women will also miss contributing to next generation of technologies and innovations.

Recommendations:

  • Teachers and technologists must take up responsibility to break misperception among women that STEM does not relate to world at large.
  • They must build passion for STEM subjects among women students by designing computer science curricula around societal challenges and giving young women more exposure to female role models.
  • Improving Awareness:
  • Example- Microsoft, the technology major has taken up an initiative to encourage women to pursue careers in STEM and is working to get students and young women excited about STEM subjects.
  • Such initiatives help raise awareness about issues that cause girls to drop out of or lose interest in STEM and aims to hold their excitement by showing them that if they stay engaged how they can change the world.

Steps Taken By UNESCO

  • To strengthen and focus UNESCO’s work in support of gender equality in Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) it launched STEM and Gender Advancement (SAGA) project in 2015. It is a global UNESCO project supported by Swedish Government through the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida).
  • It offers governments and policymakers a variety of tools to help reduce current global gender gap existing at all levels of education and research in STI fields.

Inclusive Internet Index 2019

The Inclusive Internet Index 2019 was prepared by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) for Facebook. The ‘Inclusive Internet’ score was based on the scores of availability, affordability, relevance and readiness categories.

The 2019 Index evaluated 100 countries, representing 94 per cent of the world’s population and 96 per cent of global GDP.

Findings of the Inclusive Internet Index 2019 Report

  • Sweden has topped the rankings followed by Singapore and the US.
  • India has been ranked 47th.
  • Men have more Internet access than women globally but low and lower middle income countries narrowed the gender gap in 2018.
  • The UK, Namibia, Ireland, Austria, Chile and South Africa are the top performers of the year in terms of gender equality. All these countries had female digital skills training plans.
  • The report notes that Inclusion for women and those with disabilities have improved, with low income and lower-middle-income countries driving the progress.
  • The report notes that the affordability is declining relative to monthly income in many countries. This is disproportionately affecting women and people in low-income countries who are more reliant on mobile as their primary means of accessing the Internet.
  • The percentage of households connected to the Internet globally increased, on average from 53.1 per cent to 54.8 per cent, the rate of growth in Internet connections slowed to 2.9 per cent in 2019 from 7.7 per cent in 2018.
  • Fixed-line Internet access is too expensive or inaccessible in some countries, as a result, mobile services are critical in these regions.
  • The lower-middle-income countries made a significant 66 per cent improvement in 4G coverage and low-income countries witnessed a moderate 22 per cent improvement.
  • Web accessibility standards have also improved. The improvements were led by low and lower middle income countries.
  • There are about 3.8 billion people around the world without fast and reliable Internet access.
  • Even though the overall gap between those with access to the Internet and those without narrowed, the lowest income countries fell behind because they improved at a slower rate than other countries and much slower than last year.
  • Internet connections in low-income countries increased by marginal 0.8 per cent compared to 65.1 per cent last year.
  • More than half (52.2 per cent) of respondents said they are not confident about their online privacy.
  • Majority of respondents (74.4 per cent) think the Internet has been the most effective tool for finding jobs

The report highlights that there are demonstrable benefits from comprehensive female e-inclusion policies, digital skills programmes and targets for women and girls to study science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).