Written by Shradha Pandey (Edited by Jenna Fung)
The world is going through a transformation in the digital realm due to the exponential evolution of the internet. The internet plays a pivotal role in our social, technical, economic as well as political lives. This impact is multiplied with the inclusion of every additional user on the internet. The unique nature of the internet brings multiple benefits to the people and has become the engine for the economic growth of the world. That portion of society who are the women living all across the world not only face significant challenges to access these technologies but also face significant hurdles to leverage these applications for their socio-economic development.
That portion of society who are the women living all across the world not only face significant challenges to access these technologies but also face significant hurdles to leverage these applications for their socio- economic development. The progress made by the penetration of the internet in the present scenario has been celebrated by policy makers, social scientists and human rights activists all around the world. However, the widening gender gap between mobile ownership and internet use shows that the trend has not been uniform and the gap is widest in South Asia and Africa.
Thus, we see that even when women own mobile phones there is a significant gender divide for the usage of transformational services like mobile internet. This can have far reaching repercussions as wider gender divide means lesser avenues for economic opportunities, lack of access to digital education, social and peer groups, and means to access digital services by the government such as availing scholarships, access to welfare schemes, identity cards, filing of taxes and applying for registration for the public welfare activities.
In the present fast paced competitive world, we see a bleak image across the Low and Middle Income countries where women are eight percent (8%) less likely than men to own a mobile phone and twenty percent (20%) less likely to have internet access on their mobile phones. Currently 393 women remain unconnected in today’s day and age of the total adult population of women all around the world.
The collective efforts of the stakeholders will go a long way in defining how the digital divide will narrow in the coming years. For the internet community to thrive in the coming years the multifaceted oppression and exclusion has to be curbed and women need to be brought from the marginal access to mainstream access of the internet.
A practical multistakeholder driven policy framework is the need of the hour to address the issues of material access, skill, innovation and knowledge to bridge the Gender Divide on the internet. The equality and equity harmonization can only be attained through Digital Inclusion.
A digital framework for digital inclusion has to take into account four different dimensions namely material access, skills, adequate use, and innovation. It is important to understand what “digital poverty” looks like and adversely affects women in society to find a public policy solution to this issue of the Gender Divide on the internet. To get the marginalized and excluded people within the umbrella of the internet also means making sure that the people from these varied communities have their voices heard and are given an opportunity to represent their issues in the public policy forums and debates. Moreover, active listening and engagement in community-oriented actions can go a long way in ensuring that the digital divide on the internet is bridged and the opportunities are available for everyone to access on the internet.