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Digitization Is the Revolutionary Lever We Must Unlock India is the world's fastest-growing major economy with over 600 million females in the country. Yet, less than 20% of women are in the formal workforce and we have less than 15% women entrepreneurs.

By Hardika Shah

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Before talking about the present, I want to acknowledge the 18th century Industrial Revolution which leapfrogged the push for women's rights. This was primarily because of the economic empowerment it provided to the masses of women, including giving opportunities to even the poor and illiterate women at a rate never seen before. That was the most significantly recognized era in history when human-made technology changed millions of women's lives in droves and created an opportunity for women to collaborate and have a voice.

In the 21st century, here and now, technology is ubiquitous in every aspect of our lives, even in countries that are still developing. With the presence of electricity, vehicles, and smartphones, we are living in a time of unfettered access to knowledge and the ability for anyone to have a voice of their own on the internet. So, with the advent of technology especially in this century, gender equality should really have been a thing of the past. Technically (pun intended)... this is true but the reality is that availability of tech does not equate to accessibility. We have a significant digital gender gap that has kept millions of women away from access to information and reaching economic empowerment.

And, India is an important place where the digital gender gap must be addressed! India is the world's fastest-growing major economy with over 600 million females in the country. Yet, less than 20% of women are in the formal workforce and we have less than 15% women entrepreneurs. The benefits of Gender Parity in India can be immediate with the potential to increase the nation's GDP by $800 billion by 2025, according to McKinsey. The gap towards educational and economic opportunities must be greatly reduced with digital literacy. India is at a contrast with nearly a billion smartphone users but Indian women are 15% less inclined to possess a mobile phone and 33% less inclined to utilize mobile internet services.

India is the world's fastest-growing major economy with over 600 million females in the country. Yet, less than 20% of women are in the formal workforce.

This gender gap is due to various reasons, including social and cultural factors, lack of access to digital infrastructure, and lower levels of financial and digital literacy among women. Digital technology has tremendous potential to advance women's empowerment and gender equality. The most significant benefit of digitization is that it widens the scope of access to information across demographics. Digital platforms can create spaces for women to connect and learn on how to become financially independent and are increasingly available in multiple vernacular languages as well.

Advancement via lowcost and easy access to digital services is most important for the micro-small-medium-enterprise (MSME) sector that overall contributes to 30% of India's GDP. There are approximately 15 million women-owned MSMEs but the vast majority of these businesses stagnate due to lack of insufficient support. Digital financial services such as mobile banking and e-wallets provide women entrepreneurs with a convenient way to manage their finances and provide quick access to credit via government schemes, NBFCs or banks. Additionally, digital access can provide market linkages, specialized knowledge, and training, often available for free via trusted organizations and financial experts on YouTube. Even the RBI has a YouTube channel to deliver useful awareness and information in multiple vernacular languages.

Overall, digital technology has the potential to enhance the economic, social, and financial autonomy of Indian women. However, there are still a lot of socio-economic barriers that prevent many women from accessing and utilizing digital tools. Women's equality and empowerment unlocks benefits for all with an increased GDP contribution and betterment of families and communities.For the Digital Revolution to go down in history in an indelible way of how the first Industrial Revolution did for women's equality, we need a collective movement by all stakeholders towards.

Hardika Shah

Founder and CEO, Kinara Capital

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