African women have less access to the Internet than African men do. That’s a problem.

Today is International Women’s Day, an occasion to celebrate progress toward gender equity and assess the road still ahead. According to the United Nations, equal access to the Internet and other information and communications technologies is a key gender equality goal. That’s because it offers women an avenue through which they can claim rights and act on social, economic and political opportunities — whether starting businesses, getting education, finding jobs, obtaining health care, finding banking and other financial services, or joining in a wide variety of activities.

Digital gender divide

But in Africa, there’s an online gender gap — and it may actually be widening. On the basis of more than 45,800 face-to-face interviews in 34 African countries between late 2016 and late 2018, Afrobarometer reports that women are less likely than men to own mobile phones, to use them every day, to have phones with access to the Internet, to own computers, to access the Internet regularly, or to get news from the Internet or by social media, as can be seen in the figure below. Gaps range from 11 percentage points in mobile phone ownership and daily use to four points in phone access to the Internet among those who own mobile phones.

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