Digital divide affecting more women than men

In today’s world, efforts are being made to make women and men equal, so why does the digital divide around the world continue to affect a greater number of women than it does men?

The digital divide is a term used to describe the gap between those who have access to computers and internet and those who do not.

It is influenced by factors such as geography, social class and gender. Globally, 250 million fewer women than men are online. The Internet user gap between genders increased to 12 percent in 2016. In the developing world, the figure is even larger with a reported 31 percent gap. In Pakistan, a 2018 report stated, “The internet penetration has risen to 68 million, 33 percent, around 21 percent men and 12 percent women using the internet. The overwhelming majority resides in cities. In 2016, there were 34,342,400 internet users in Pakistan, which is 17.8 percent of the total population, marking an increase of 1.2 percent since 2015. According to the CIA Fact book on Pakistan, the estimated internet penetration in Pakistan until July 2015 was 18 percent, as opposed to 10.8 percent in 2014.”

Pakistan in 2016, as reported by the World Bank collection of development indicators, is said to have 60.78 percent rural population density.

That concluded to lesser female exposure to technology. When women do not have access to the internet they miss out on the benefits that technology provides; 30 percent more women would see an increase in their income and 45 percent more would be able to search and apply for a job if they were granted access to the internet.

There is a shortage in talent in the Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics (STEM) industry across the world, with positions in the STEM industry being the most difficult for which to find qualified candidates. If there is more investment in bringing technology and internet to more women, it might be possible to bridge the gap, and see growth in the STEM industry at an even quicker rate.

Pakistan in 2016, as reported by the World Bank collection of development indicators, is said to have 60.78 percent rural population density. That amounted to lesser female exposure to technology. When women do not have access to the internet they miss out on the benefits that technology provides. 30 percent more women would see an increase in their income and 45 percent more would be able to search and apply for a job if they were granted access to the internet

According to a study by the Plan International, if 600 million women were connected to the internet, in three years this would translate to a rise in the global Gross Domestic Product of between $13 billion and $18 billion.

Of course, this story is bigger than any one goal. Quoting the World Economic Forum Founder Dr Klaus Schwab, “Achieving gender equality is obviously necessary for economic reasons. Only those economies have full access to all their talent will remain competitive and will prosper. But even more important, gender equality is a matter of justice. As humanity, we also have the obligation to ensure a balanced set of values.”

Therefore, investing in girls would not only allow for many changes in their personal life but also have a great economic impact overall. To bridge this gap and to have women reap benefits of technology for their socio-economic uplift, gender affirmative actions are the need of the hour.

Technology isn’t gender specific and access to it shouldn’t be either. We can do our part to help deconstruct the digital divide by advocating for women in not only the STEM industry but in every sphere of life and by focusing on public solutions to help make the internet affordable, secure and easily accessible to everyone.

The writer is a student at National University of Modern Languages

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