Women stand to benefit greatly from digitalization, especially when it comes to education, work, business and access to healthcare, according to Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte.

Belmonte made this pronouncement in her keynote speech during SPARK Philippines’ “Women Forging the Digital Future” Event, saying Filipino women should take advantage of the benefits that digitalization provides in terms of their careers and sources of livelihood.

“Digitalization has indeed made education more accessible to women around the world. We now have access to a wider range of courses and educational materials regardless of our location. We can learn new skills to help us advance in our careers,” Belmonte said.

The Mayor said technology helps create new opportunities for women to participate in the workforce through various means, such as work-from-home arrangements that allow them to achieve a work-life balance.

Digitalization also helps women entrepreneurs grow their business and reach a wider market through digital tools such as e-commerce platforms and e-wallets.

“Having their own GCash, GrabPay and Maya accounts for example has also enabled women to gain financial freedom, control and power,” she pointed out.

Recognizing the value of digital financial services, Belmonte said the Quezon City government has provided e-commerce and digital package to 1,261 women-owned small and medium entrepreneurs through its various programs, such as the Tindahan ni Ate Joy for solo parents, POP QC for women artisans, and QC Essentials for women livelihood groups. 

“In order to help some 200 existing artisanal groups, 80% of whom are women, to continue doing business during the pandemic, we published five volumes of Made in QC with QR codes after each featured product, to guide customers in making online purchases through the official Instagram and Facebook accounts of the merchants,” she said.

Aside from facilitating economic activities for women, Belmonte emphasized that digitalization can also aid in helping women access much needed healthcare, especially for those who live in far-flung areas or have mobility issues. 

During the pandemic, the Quezon City government utilized an AI system called BantAI COVID to monitor the health status of thousands of COVID patients enrolled in its system. 

“Patients identified to have worsening health conditions were automatically flagged for treatment via teleconsulting with doctors from the Philippine Medical Association,” she said.

Further, Belmonte said the city government’s telemedicine program has also helped address the needs of women hounded by mental health issues.

To tap these benefits, Belmonte underscored the need to implement interventions that will help bridge the “rapidly widening digital gap”, especially for women from low-income households and rural areas whose access to digital resources is limited.

“Moving forward, governments and private organizations can work together to expand internet access in underserved areas. Access to digital devices such as computers and smartphones are also necessary to democratize the benefits of digitalization. The affordability of these digital devices needs to be addressed,” she emphasized.

In Quezon City, the local government installed almost 4,000 access points in more than 800 sites all over the city, providing communities with wi-fi access that allows QCitizens to access  information via online data sources, as well as a means to engage in online transactions.

Belmonte also encouraged more women to embrace the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematic, saying it would help address the gender divide in the digital space.

“More women in STEM will mean more gender equal AI systems development teams, more women-led start-ups, more women-empowered work spaces in the digital arena, and the elimination of gender-based biases and stereotypes in these fields,” the Mayor said.

“More women in STEM will be active and critical in addressing the welfare of all women in the development of technology in the future,” she added.Based on data, Grades 11 and 12 girls studying STEM in Quezon City outnumber the boys, while 53 percent of 12,905 Senior High School students are female.