Challenges and opportunities in achieving gender digital inclusion

A new research report by the Global Digital Inclusion Partnership (GDIP), Connected Resilience: Gendered Experiences of Meaningful Connectivity through a Global Pandemic, examines the challenges and opportunities in achieving gender digital inclusion, especially following the COVID-19 pandemic. The research study supported by the Internet Society Foundation draws on women’s experiences from nine countries in the Global South – India, Mozambique, Nigeria, Philippines, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Ghana, South Africa, and Uganda.

The report highlights that while Internet access was essential during lockdowns, it was unavailable to everyone. The digital divide persists, leaving many women, impoverished people, and those in rural areas unconnected. This exclusion has economic consequences, with GDIP estimating that countries could lose over $500 billion in the next five years if this issue is not addressed with substantial policy interventions.

The research also found significant disparities in Internet access based on geography and education. Women with a college degree were nearly twice as likely to be meaningfully connected compared to those with less education. Similarly, women in urban areas were over 50% more likely to have meaningful connectivity than those in rural areas.

Lockdowns exacerbated these existing divides. Women in underserved areas faced barriers like:

  • Lack of infrastructure, such as mobile towers.
  • High cost of devices and data plans.
  • Dependence on men in their families for device use.
  • Limited time due to income-generating activities and care work.

These systemic barriers, along with poverty, early marriage, and education level, create significant obstacles to women’s digital inclusion globally.

The report calls for targeted investments and policies to promote meaningful connectivity for women. This includes:

  1. Deep investments that use substantial resourcing to make profound changes in a specific policy area or for a specific community.
  1. Grand visions that combine years of effort with substantial funding resources to revolutionize the status quo. National broadband plans and other key strategy documents — when appropriately supported and resourced through implementation stages — represent a core example of grand visions within this space.
  1. Easy wins that are comparatively discreet and specific changes that can still create tangible value at their scale.
  1. Scalable systems that represent large, programmatic changes in the pre-existing ways of working. Multistakeholder approaches and gender targets can provide the foundation for long-term, ongoing processes that scale progress toward closing the gender digital divide. By using policy and regulation to create mechanisms and procedures that consider digital inclusion, policymakers can build habits and routines that gradually and consistently change the course of history.

The GDIP report proposes achievable solutions and urges policymakers, investors, and the ICT sector to work together to achieve meaningful connectivity and inclusive digital development.

Read the full report:

Executive Summary:

Learn more about our Research Grant Program

Previously posted at :