Statistics on information and communication technology (ICT) adoption by women show very low numbers compared to men. According to the ‘ICT Facts and Figures’ report by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the global internet user gender gap grew from 11% in 2013 to 12% in 2016. The gap remains large in the least developed countries, at 31%. In developing countries, the gap was 16.8% in 2016—an increase from 15.8% in 2013. The Asia-Pacific region showed a meagre decrease in the gap from 17.4% in 2013 to 16.9 % in 2016.
Internet penetration rate has remained low for women, specifically in the Asia-Pacific region (39.5%), compared to men (47.5%). To boost representation of women in ICT-oriented careers (only 30% of the around 7 million people working in the ICT sector are women), ITU members have come together to hold the ‘International Girls in ICT Day’, which is to be celebrated on the fourth Thursday of April every year. The goal of the event is to create a global environment that empowers and encourages girls and young women to consider careers in ICT.
You May Also Want To Watch:
As far as India is concerned, with the Digital India initiative picking up momentum, there is a need to revisit this issue closely. A multi-pronged approach has to be taken that acknowledges, debates and addresses the problems that may hinder ICT adoption by women. In fact, some of such problems lie at the very crux of our society. Even in this age we get to hear about regressive policies by some of the country’s finest educational institutions—the Banaras Hindu University in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, was recently in the news because it, reportedly, restricted Wi-Fi access to girl students who stay in the hostel.
The private sector too has a major role to play in bridging the gender divide in ICT. It must encourage women participation in planning, designing and developing products and solutions that encourage more women in the ICT workforce. ICT adoption by women can open a new window to future possibilities that India can possibly lead in.
The author, Anindita Paul is assistant professor, Indian Institute of Management Kozhikode.