Digital gender divide warning by UN agency in developing countries

A report by the United Nations agency International Telecommunication Union wants to tackle digital exclusion globally, especially among women in less developed countries.

Joe Lepper | 5th Nov 19
The Sims (clone) image of gender divide

Women in developing countries are struggling to access the internet due to a digital gender divide, according to a report into digital inclusion globally.

The International Telecommunication Union report found that 4.1bn people are now using the internet, which is equivalent to 53.6 per cent of the population.

However, the ITU’s Measuring digital development: Facts and figures 2019 report found that 52 per cent of women are still not using the internet, compared to 42 per cent of all men.

The gap is particularly pronounced in developing countries, where only 40.7 per cent of women are using the internet, compared to 52.8 per cent of men.

The latest figures will be of particular interest to aid charities working in developing countries, looking to address issues such as poverty and social exclusion.

The research found that the gender divide is increasing in developing countries where fewer women than men are taking advantage of technological improvements.

This year the internet use gap between men and women in developing countries is 22.8 per cent, compared to 15.8 per cent six years ago.

Africa has seen the biggest increase in the gender divide since 2013, while more men than women are also accessing the internet in Arab states and Asia Pacific over the same period.

Lack of digital skills

Barriers to internet use include affordability and lack of digital skills, especially in developing countries.

In 40 out of 84 countries analysed less than half the population have basic computer skills, including copying a file and sending an email with an attachment.

The report is calling for governments worldwide to focus on tackling digital exclusion.

Meanwhile, in developed countries there is still a gender digital divide although it is falling, with 87.6 per cent and 86 per cent of women accessing the internet.

Doreen Bogdan-Martin, Director of ITU’s Telecommunication Development Bureau said: “Even where connectivity exists, we need to be more creative in addressing critical issues like affordability of service, cost of handsets, and lack of digital skills and literacy to enable more people – and especially women – to participate and flourish in the digital economy.”