As a public health professional, it is evident to me that gender disparities are still prevalent, and one factor contributing to this is the unequal distribution of internet access. The internet is now considered a “super determinant” of health since it has a significant impact on health outcomes and influences other social determinants of health, such as education, employment, and healthcare access. Furthermore, women are underrepresented in the healthcare workforce and in leadership roles, which further perpetuates gender disparities. Sadly, of the estimated 2.7 billion people currently unconnected, the majority are women and girls, highlighting the pressing need for action to ensure equal access to the internet and promote gender equity.

And so I was humbled to attend the 67th Commission on the Status of Women (CSW67) as a UNA-USA delegate from March 6–17, 2023, at the United Nations headquarters in New York City. While it was an opportunity to celebrate the hard-won progress achieved by women and girls across the globe, it was also a stark reminder of the remaining challenges. This year’s priority theme was innovation, technological change, and education in the digital age for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls.

Along with being part of the main sessions, we talked about women’s participation and leadership in the technology sector, gender-responsive tech design, transparency and accountability in the digital age, and online gender-based violence. I also participated in various side events at CSW67; the ones that stood out to me were the sessions held by the WHO, where we discussed the role of digital innovation, technology, and education in improving health outcomes for women and girls, especially those who experience compounding barriers to health and well-being.

The second was about gender equality and rights in the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases: the role of digital health, where we discussed the relevance of digital health interventions in the context of non-communicable diseases and the importance of ensuring women’s meaningful use of digital technologies.

Merely promoting women’s involvement in STEM is not sufficient; we need to design technological systems that prioritize women and girls to make headway in narrowing health disparities. Since access to digital resources can be instrumental in advancing women’s health and well-being in the current digital age, it is essential to build technological systems that cater to women’s unique needs and concerns. By prioritizing women’s requirements and preferences in technology design, we can make significant strides in reducing gender disparities in healthcare and promoting gender equity.

I was also thrilled to attend an Indian roundtable event organized by the All India Women’s Education Fund Association in partnership with the Permanent Mission of India to the United Nations. In World We Women and Girls Want: Technology Enabled Social and Economic Advancement, we talked about the trifecta of entrepreneurial, educational, and health initiatives spawned by technological innovation in the digital age across countries and how India approached the innovation and technology changes, which have resulted in a positive impact on gender equality. For instance, India’s Unified Payment Interface (UPI) is among the most appreciated and useful interfaces that have eased the process of making payments, creating a digitally empowered society. In rural or urban settings, women artisans are emerging and setting up their own enterprises. The Government of India is also providing platforms for innovation and technological change through different schemes under the National Rural Livelihood Mission (NRLM) and State Rural Livelihood Mission (SRLM) and by setting up women’s self-help groups (SHGs).

The Next Frontier: Transforming Economies for Gender Equality in the Digital Age, an hybrid high-level side event, reflected on ways to tap digital innovation’s potential as a driver for more inclusive and gender equal economies. It included UNDP, feminist thinkers, government representatives, philanthropies, and other key actors across the digital ecosystem to highlight why digital innovation is essential for the transformation of economies that work for gender equality and women’s empowerment in line with the aspirations of the 2030 Agenda. This session showcased and discussed UNDP’s experience bringing digital innovation to design solutions to address the burden of women’s unpaid care work. Partners reflected on challenges and opportunities while also providing insights and inspiration from both a policy and solution perspective. Highlighting UNDP’s experience in bringing digital innovation to the design of solutions that address the burden of unpaid care women bear, featuring a care geo-referencing tool that helped revamp the care system in Bogota, Colombia. This tool has also been piloted in Uruguay, Argentina, the Dominican Republic, and Peru.

In conclusion, there is an urgent need for a deeper comprehension of why gender inequalities still exist and what measures can be taken to enhance women’s access to, usage of, and engagement with digital tools, and how we can improve women’s ability to access, use, and engage with digital tools. That is the only way we can truly leverage the power of digital solutions so that a more equitable future for the digital age can be developed, ensuring no one is left behind.

Lastly, I was able to make wonderful connections and learn from the expertise of various thought leaders, and I’m proud to be a part of The Commission on the Status of Women and contribute to its journey of promoting gender equality and empowering women, promoting women’s rights, documenting the reality of women’s lives throughout the world, and shaping global standards on gender equality and the empowerment of women.