Access to the Internet liberates individuals and entire countries. Unfortunately of those who have access to the Internet in a variety of platforms (not just via mobile phones) women and girls lack Net use significantly. Intel, UN Women and the US State Department are looking to change that. A joint report, “Women and the Web” calls for a doubling of women who have access to the Internet from 600 million to 1.2 billion by 2016.
Today, only 4% of women in low-income countries have access to the Internet, 13% in lower middle income countries and 34% in middle income countries. Women in Afghanistan, Sierra Leone, Haiti and Iraq have the least access to the Net of all countries. Conversely, women show greatest Net use in the West Bank/Palestine, the Seychelles, Maldives and Antigua and Barbuda.
Some of the reasons women lack access to the Internet are fairly common sense: cost, location, cultural norms, timidity about the medium, and a general lack of awareness about the benefits of the Internet.
Women and the Web estimates that if more women are afforded access to the Internet there could be a potential increase of $13 billion to $18 billion to annual GDP across 144 developing countries.
“With the powerful capabilities the Internet enables — to connect, to learn, to engage, to increase productivity, and to find opportunities — women’s lack of access is giving rise to a second digital divide, one where women and girls risk being left further and further behind.” said Melanne Verveer, ambassador-at-large for Global Women’s Issues at the U.S. Department of State.”My hope is that this report will catalyze action to close the Internet gender gap. This will require knowledge, leadership, determination and collaboration among governments, public institutions, corporations, and civil society to tackle the wide range of gender-specific barriers to Internet access.”
According to the report women who have access to the Net use mobile banking and health programs more often. Additionally they gain a greater sense of self-esteem, connect with people in other communities and garner gender-specific information. Additionally women who use the Net can use the medium for business and making money, creativity, and greater information gathering.
Read more about the report at Intel.com.
Photo Caption: Sudanese women and girls march in El Fasher, North Darfur, to celebrate International Women’s Day, in many places the day’s 100th anniversary. The 2011 theme: “Equal Access to Education, Training, Science and Technology”. UN Photo/Olivier Chassot