#Women2023: Women Forging the Digital Future

March 16, 2023

#Women2023: Women Forging the Digital Future
15 March 2023

I am honored and grateful to be invited to be part of Women 2023: Women Forging the Digital Future organized by SPARK! Philippines.

I also extend my warmest greetings to all the women here today and to all those watching us through social media. It is a delight to celebrate Women’s Month and to recognize and appreciate the remarkable contributions of women to society. This special month is an occasion to celebrate the talent, resilience, and unwavering spirit of women across the globe.

Allow me to start by stating that whether we operate from the confines of our homes, within our workplaces, or participate in community efforts, women have been able to make a significant impact on people and society. It cannot be denied that we play a crucial part in molding communities and driving important initiatives forward. We hear about women leading the fight against climate change, women eco-warriors, and women culture champions, among others. It is inspiring to see how women are gaining recognition across various domains, alongside making a difference, both tangible and intangible.

The field of technology presents a fluid atmosphere with abundant prospects for women to actively participate in shaping the future. There is no doubt that technology has significantly transformed women’s lives. The emergence of various digital platforms has provided a new space for women to voice their opinions, connect and share their experiences, find support, and champion their rights. Aside from being presented with job opportunities in the technology sector, these have helped to expose and address gender biases and inequalities in various industries. Access to educational resources and virtual classes have enabled them to enhance their expertise and advance in their professions.

I may not be an expert in technology, but I make a conscientious effort to utilize its practicality as often as possible, particularly in the numerous tasks undertaken within the legislative field and my other advocacies.

As a member of the Senate, I can attest that the influence of digital media and technology is equally apparent in the realm of politics. I recognize the power of these tools to advocate my causes, communicate with the people, advance policies, engage with stakeholders, and rally support for legislative efforts. The influence of technology on politics will continue to shape the landscape in the years ahead, and as a woman and legislator, I intend to leverage its benefits to the fullest extent possible.

Several years ago, I saw the need for improved communication services, and therefore, accorded priority to the ICT industry. I saw how the functions of government lacked coordination, and I was well aware that it would ultimately have a negative impact on the people we serve. I principally authored the establishment of the Department of Information, Communication, and Technology, and with this vision, Republic Act No. 10844, or the DICT Act of 2015 was signed. We now see the crucial role of the DICT in improving transparency, accountability, and efficacy in public service delivery.

As I advocate causes important to women, I utilize digital media and technology to advance issues. I also have employed the use of technology to support our micro small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs), particularly our women entrepreneurs. I am aware of how our MSMEs have employed digital platforms during the pandemic which contributed to both local income generation and employment. I principally authored the Philippine Innovation Act or Republic Act No 11293 to integrate science, innovation, and technology in empowering our MSMEs. As the principal sponsor and author of the MSME law, I vow to always look after the welfare of our entrepreneurs.

Unfortunately, digital platforms can also create new concerns, such as online harassment and the spread of harmful stereotypes. Progressive developments in digital technology have created opportunities for unethical individuals to leverage such advancements for illicit purposes such as illegal trafficking, cyberbullying, and gender-based violence, among others. As such, I have actively advocated for greater enforcement of existing laws aimed at countering these activities emanating from digital media. It is important to recognize the potential pitfalls of digital technology and take steps to mitigate them.

As a woman, I strongly support the idea of bringing together and strengthening the relationships between people and communities. My focus has always been on promoting connectivity and inclusivity. I recall a time when I had a vision of enabling all communities to have access to digital ICT to improve essential public services. I am proud to share that recently, the launching of the E-governance and Broadband ng Masa program was realized in the Province of Antique. This program involves the establishment of Wi-Fi spots in public areas to facilitate technological development and streamline processes in the barangays.

One of the future endeavors that I am keen on pursuing involves the installation of communication towers in remote and underserved regions, specifically in Geographically Isolated and Disadvantaged Areas (GIDA) that are occupied by indigenous populations. These communities should also be part of the government’s digitalization and internet connectivity initiatives. It is imperative that we provide these communities with access to technology, taking into account the unique and valuable contributions they can offer to society.

Relatedly, for this Congress, I introduced Senate Bill No. 830, or the Online Network Philippines Act, which aims to create ICT hubs nationwide to enhance technology accessibility, elevate the information and technology proficiency of Filipinos, and support national progress and advancement in the current digital era.

Recently, the Senate of the Philippines and the House of Representatives launched eCongress — a digital legislative management system for the Congress of the Philippines. It is geared towards improving, strengthening, and streamlining communications between the Senate and the House of Representatives with the help of digital technology.

Last week, I delivered a privilege speech at the Senate where I addressed the UN’s theme of “DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality.” I expressed my belief that women will be at the forefront of innovation. Technology has significantly increased connectivity among people, and it may be used to drive better policy-making to address our challenges more effectively. Relatedly, I stressed the importance of acknowledging and reducing unpaid work that women undertake by easing their workload, rewarding their labor, and giving them a voice. I emphasized that this is often overlooked primarily due to its immeasurable worth. However, I believe that its value should also be recognized in addressing gender inequalities via appropriate policies.

I believe that support for women in technology is important to establish an equitable digital landscape. Although significant strides have been made to promote equity and inclusivity in technology, I hold the belief that there remains a substantial amount of work to be accomplished. Specifically, there is a need for increased opportunities for women to acquire digital competencies and receive recognition in the field of technology. I eagerly anticipate seeing women who are keen to utilize digital and technological tools in pursuit of their professional objectives.

It is my sincere desire to witness women taking the lead in shaping the direction of technology and the digital landscape.

Thank you very much!