Somali woman working on desktop

Gender Data on Somali Women’s Digital Access

Andy Kotikula, Senior Economist

As we all know, data is a fundamental necessity for evidence-based decision-making. But we have a  challenge − women’s status and voice are often not reflected in official statistics. Either because it is not collected or not analyzed and disseminated. As a result, poor-quality gender data can translate into poor, or non-existent gender policies. Without data on how economic realities differ for men and women, and what social factors influence these differences, it is difficult to design effective policies and make decisions for economies so that they grow, and ALL citizens can thrive.

Gender data is not only about having sex-disaggregated statistics, it also should reflect issues related to imbalances of power and resources between women and men in society; for example, by focusing on areas of concern where women and men may not enjoy the same opportunities (labor market) or where women’s and men’s lives may be affected in different ways (early marriage). Usually, the national statistics systems can play a key role in compiling and curating key gender gaps facing countries and we at the World Bank are keen to encourage and assist with that. This blog covers some aspects of gender data in Somalia.

The lack of gender data is even more problematic in Somalia

Somalia operates in a uniquely challenging environment, with institutions and coordination mechanisms undermined by decades of conflict. In the absence of robust and reliable data from official sources, data often comes from surveys and reports produced by external organizations and humanitarian agencies. As Somalia is transitioning from being dependent on humanitarian aid to development, it, as a country, needs inclusive data that can help support the country’s development approach which will help the focus on improving the living standards of all Somalis. This involves investing in health, education, and infrastructure, which are critical for long-term development and stability.

Historically in the country, there has been limited collection and analysis of gender data and statistics. What’s more, some survey questions are directed only to the head of the family thus, we might only know about the situation at the household head level, but never whether there are any differences between male and female household members. A World Bank Assessment conducted in 2021, which focuses on gender economic indicators, showed that only two out of 25 indicators are published and meet all aspects of the indicator definition, The lack of data in Somalia, also makes it difficult to measure progress and assess the impact of development initiatives but there is progress being made:

  • Analyzing and publishing existing data. Somalia National Bureau of Statistics (SNBS) has made some progress in the past two years and has published the 2nd edition of the gender statistics booklet “women and men in Somalia” in July 2022.
  • Collecting gender data. The SNBS recently conducted the first Somalia Integrated Household Budget Survey (SIHBS 2022). Data collected through the SIHBS will be used to improve the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) estimates and Consumer Price Index (CPI). Most importantly, the SIHBS focuses on collecting data at the individual level. As a result, key development indicators such as those related to access to finance, use of the internet, and landownership can be disaggregated by sex.

New data on men and women’s access to digital services

When it comes to ownership and use of mobile phones, the SIHBS 2022 provides insights into gender differences. According to the survey data, 85.6% of male vs 84.5% of female populations over 15 years old have mobile phones. Data also shows some people who do not own mobile phones still manage to access and use mobile phones.

The data shows that 82.5% of males and 81.1% of females used a mobile phone for financial transactions in the last 3 months. This suggests that there is not a significant difference between males and females in terms of using mobile phones for financial transactions.

Mobile ownership and use for financial transactions

Mobile ownership and use for financial transactions.
This SIHBS also reveals the percentage of individuals aged 10 years and older who used the internet in the past 3 months – 30.8% were male and 24.7% were female. This gender gap in internet usage may reflect differences in access to technology or differences in social norms related to internet use for males and females.Percentage of population 10+ use internet
Percentage of population 10+ use internet.

Collecting and analyzing  women’s digital access and use in Somalia is crucial to the country’s economy

Efforts to collect high-quality gender data are only helpful if the data is used. This is true for all aspects of women’s economic empowerment, including digital access. And disseminating collected data is a fundamental step to ensure uptake and use of data for policy making. Knowing about the gender gap in digital access is a starting point for actions. It is important that new data, like the SIHBS, gets into the hands of policy makers and we ensure that the data is understood, used, and finally moves the needle on gender equality in Somalia.

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