In today’s ultra-connected world, the fact that the mobile gender gap has significantly narrowed is welcome news. Recent research by GSMA shows that in low-and-middle countries, women are 20% less likely to use mobile internet than men, down from 27% three years earlier, a reduction driven primarily by a significant improvement in South Asia. While this is cause for celebration, we have way more work to do in order to close the gender gap. This is particularly the case during the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19), when digital technologies have become our lifeline. The crisis may in fact reinforce the digital gender divide, including through its impact on girls’ education. Now is the time to do something about it.
Three hundred million fewer women than men in low-and middle-income countries have access to mobile internet. This is roughly the equivalent of the entire population of the United States. At 51% (versus 67% in 2017), South Asia still holds the unfortunate distinction of having the world’s widest gender gap, followed by Sub-Saharan Africa, at 37%. Why should we be worried? The digital divide could increasingly prevent women from accessing life-enhancing services for education, health, and financial inclusion in a world that has become virtual overnight.
As the digital transformation affects economies and changes the nature of work, strategies to make sure technology becomes a great equalizer—rather than a divider—are essential.
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