‘350 million fewer women to be online than men

Some women at a cyber cafe

Some women at a cyber cafe

IN three years from now, there are indications that there would be 350 million fewer women online than men.
   
This is because there appears to be pervasive gender divide in broadband access between men and women globally.
   
Confirmed in a report titled: ‘Doubling Digital Opportunities: Enhancing the Inclusion of Women and Girls in the Information Society’, by the Broadband Commission Working Group on Gender of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), which disclosed that globally, there are an estimated 200 million fewer women than men online, with a projection that this gap could grow to 350 million within the next three years, if remedial action is not taken.
   
The report observed that around the world, women are coming online later and more slowly than men. It noted that of the world’s 2.8 billion Internet users, 1.3 billion are women, compared with 1.5 billion men.
   
ITU noted that while the gap between male and female users is relatively small in countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), it is much wider in the developing world.
   
According to the study, worldwide, women are on average 21 per cent less likely to own a mobile phone — representing a mobile gender gap of 300 million women, equating to $13 billion in potential missed revenue for the mobile industry.
 
In addition, ITU’s Gary Fowlie, at the Third International Conference on Financing for Development in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, last month, stressed that more than half the world still doesn’t have access to the Internet.
   
According to him, in addition to an affordability gap, there is a huge gender gap, “200 million fewer women have access to the Internet than men now”, he reiterated.
 
Fowlie said recent studies have indicated that by connecting everyone in the developing countries at the same levels as in developed countries, 140 million jobs could be created and lift 160 million people out of poverty.
   
Fowlie, who spoke on the role of ICTs in sustainable financial development, noted that the developed world takes ICTs and global connectivity for granted. “It’s like breathing, we only think about it when we can’t – the network is down, you aren’t able to access your bank account or your own personal data, maybe the your energy source isn’t working because the smart grid upon which it operates has malfunctioned.
   
“You can be forgiven, because what we’ve also forgotten is how small a role ICTs played at the beginning of the millennium. In the year 2000 there were only 740 million mobile subscriptions and just seven per cent of the world was online. By the end of this year there will be 7.1 billion mobile subscriptions and more than 3.2 billion people will be online.
 
“The growth in the ICT sector – for a large part based on open transparent licensing and healthy public private partnerships – has been tremendous.”
   
According to him, the potential for innovative financing and sustainable development solutions that harness ICTs as a means of implementing those solutions is infinite. He said this is illustrated by the ICT innovations in mobile banking developed in Africa – by Africans for Africans, but as an example to be shared with the world.
   
According to him, for every 10 per cent increase in broadband network penetration in the country, the World Bank estimates GDP growth of approximately 1.8 per cent, adding that this doesn’t include the benefits of increased social inclusion and environmental sustainability these networks enable.
   
Research in the ITU report indicated that in developing countries, every 10 per cent increase in access to broadband translates to a 1.38 per cent growth in gross domestic product (GDP). So bringing an additional 600 million women and girls online could boost global GDP by as much as $18 billion.
 
It observed that the world may be watching the economic potential of the BRIC economies (Brazil, the Russian Federation, India and China), but the most exciting new emerging market in the world could be women.
   
Analysts believe that over the next decade, women’s potential as producers, entrepreneurs, employees and consumers could rival the impact of the huge populations of China or India.
 
“Promoting women’s access to ICT — and particularly broadband — should be central to the post-2015 global development agenda,” said former ITU Secretary-General, Dr. Hamadoun I. Touré.
   
The report noted that gender imbalances in choosing to study science, technology, engineering and mathematics at school and university leads to gender differences in career choices and ultimately pay differentials in the workforce.



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