Inequalities faced by women may worsen due to unequal access to tech

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Updated: February 22, 2019 7:40:47 AM

Mobile is the primary means of internet access in these markets, and 48% of women in these countries use mobile to get online.

Digital divide! Unequal accesss to technology threatens to worsen inequalities women face (Representational image)Digital divide! Unequal accesss to technology threatens to worsen inequalities women face (Representational image)

The world wide web is gaining popularity among women in middle- and low-income countries. According to the GSMA’s 2019 Mobile Gender Gap Report, 80% of women in these countries are now mobile owners. Mobile is the primary means of internet access in these markets, and 48% of women in these countries use mobile to get online. However, despite the growth in connectivity, the gender gap in mobile ownership is not closing. The mobile gender gap varies by region and country but is widest in south Asia where women are 28% less likely than men to own a mobile device and 58% less likely to use the mobile internet. Omidyar Network, a Silicon Valley-based impact investment firm, in a report in 2017, also highlighted the gender disparity in mobile phone connectivity and usage. According to its India-specific data, only 44.1% of women own a mobile phone compared with 73% of men, and women comprise only 35% and 25% of mobile internet and Facebook users, respectively.

In the GSMA report, women highlighted affordability, literacy and digital skills, a perceived lack of relevance, and safety and security concerns as the top barriers needing to be addressed in order to further decrease the mobile gender gap. In India, the data, despite over 40% of Indian women being aware of mobile internet in 2019, as compared to just 19% a year ago, the gender divide is heavily pronounced for more sophisticated services such as surfing the internet (43% vs 23% for men vs women, respectively) or downloading apps (32% vs 14% for men vs women, respectively) , services which are responsible for the enhanced productivity a phone delivers. So, while 83% of both women and men used a phone to make/receive calls, greater awareness and literacy-improving efforts need to be made, specifically for women, in order for India’s citizens to reap the greatest rewards from increased digital inclusion.

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