World Wide Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee said Thursday the COVID-19 pandemic demonstrates “the gross inequality” of a world where almost half the population is unable to connect to the internet.
The internet eased lockdown life for millions. But millions more still can’t get online, and that’s fundamentally unfair
Alex, 28, rides his bike all over a neighborhood in Havana delivering el paquete. It doesn’t matter that there’s a “stay home” order in place—he goes out wearing a mask and carrying a chloride solution. His delivery is now more precious than ever precisely because of the quarantine: Alex provides his customers with information and entertainment. He delivers the Cuban “offline internet.”
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.
Women still lag behind in their ability to access, use and afford digital tools. Cultural barriers and stereotypes can affect their expectations as well, and may lead them toward less rewarding career paths in an increasingly digitalised and interconnected world.
Recognising that gender equality is essential to ensure that men and women can develop their full potential in the digital world, Chile defined “women, SMEs and inclusive growth” and “digital society” as two of its key priorities for its 2019 APEC host year. We contributed to the discussions with a report on the role of education and skills in bridging the digital gender divide, which identifies barriers that prevent women in APEC economies from playing an active role in the digital revolution, as well as key areas for policy action.
Some still do not have mobile phones, and even phone owners struggle with connectivity and costs; they also face security issues
In some emerging economies, many do not own – or even share – mobile phones
As ownership of mobile phones, especially smartphones, spreads rapidly across the globe, there are still notable numbers of people in emerging economies who do not own a mobile phone, or who share one with others. A Pew Research Center survey in 11 emerging economies finds that a median of 6% of adults do not use phones at all, and a median of 7% do not own phones but instead borrow them from others. The mobile divides are most pronounced in Venezuela (32%), India (30%) and the Philippines (27%), countries where about three-in-ten adults do not own a mobile phone.
Least developed countries (LDCs), landlocked developing countries (LLDCs) and small island developing states (SIDS)’ constitute 91 of the world’s most vulnerable nations. Some of them lag significantly behind in terms of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
As part of the ongoing global efforts to help countries implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, it is necessary to pay particular attention to these groups of countries.
World leaders are to pledge to shape the technological revolution sweeping through Africa by acting to lift the threat of 400 million predominantly rural women being excluded from digital financial services.
G7 finance ministers meeting in France are to endorse a paper from the Gates Foundation saying there is a serious risk that digital technology and mobile banking will bypass millions of women in Africa, leaving them disempowered for a generation.
While much has been written about bridging the digital chasm and connecting the next billion to the Internet, it is slow going to make it happen. Currently, 3.4 billion people do not have access to the Internet and the bulk of them live in developing countries and rural areas. In these underserved areas, women are far less likely to be connected to the Internet than men – in low and middle income countries, women are 10% less likely to own a mobile phone than men and are 26% less likely to use mobile Internet. This all means that the economic opportunities and human connections provided by the Internet are not readily available to the people who need it the most.
I believe that solving this problem requires us to put local people and their needs, as well as the tools for sustainable, locally driven progress at the center of the plan. This is why I co-founded the People-Centered Internet (PCI) and why I am such a fan of the work that Steve Huter and the Network Startup Resource Center (NSRC) at the University of Oregon do.
Publics see mobile phones and social media bringing certain benefits to them and their societies. But these views are paired with widespread concerns about their impact on children
After more than a decade of studying the spread and impact of digital life in the United States, Pew Research Center has intensified its exploration of the impact of online connectivity among populations in emerging economies – where the prospect of swift and encompassing cultural change propelled by digital devices might be even more dramatic than the effects felt in developed societies.
Surveys conducted in 11 emerging and developing countries across four global regions find that the vast majority of adults in these countries own – or have access to – a mobile phone of some kind.1 And these mobile phones are not simply basic devices with little more than voice and texting capacity: A median of 53% across these nations now have access to a smartphone capable of accessing the internet and running apps.