Bono’s agency finds wide on­line gen­der gap

China Daily (USA) - - LIFE - By REUTERS in Lis­bon

Al­most a third fewer women than men in the world’s poor­est coun­tries are con­nected to the in­ter­net and the gap is set to widen, lim­it­ing ac­cess to life-chang­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties, an anti-poverty group said on Tues­day.

A study by the One or­ga­ni­za­tion, co-founded by Ir­ish rock star Bono to tackle ex­treme poverty, found 18 per­cent of­menin the 48 least de­vel­oped na­tions are on­line com­pared with 12.5 per­cent of women, with a gen­der gap of 22.3 mil­lion or about 30 per­cent.

The anal­y­sis, re­leased at Europe’s big­gest tech event, the Web Sum­mit, fore­cast the dig­i­tal gen­der di­vide­would­widen fur­ther by2020 to about 32 per­cent when fac­tor­ing in pop­u­la­tion growth and cur­rent in­ter­net trends, to a gap of 53.5 mil­lion.

The re­port says a global tar­get set by UN mem­ber states last year to have uni­ver­sal af­ford­able in­ter­net ac­cess in the least de­vel­oped coun­tries by 2020 was off track.

Anti-poverty cam­paign­ers and tech lead­ers such as Face­book’s CEO MarkZuc ker berg have ac­tively pro­moted the in­ter­net to help lift peo­ple out of poverty by con­nect­ing them to ed­u­ca­tion and busi­ness op­por­tu­ni­ties as well as health ser­vices and bank­ing.

David McNair, pol­icy di­rec­tor of One, says the new anal­y­sis showed that al­most 350 mil­lion­wom­e­nand girls would re­main un­con­nected by 2020 com­pared to about 290 mil­lion men due to a range of ac­cess, cul­tural and lit­er­acy fac­tors.

“But the fact is that when you em­power women and girls to more ed­u­ca­tion and job op­por­tu­ni­ties then­this also ben­e­fits their fam­i­lies, com­mu­ni­ties and coun­tries,” McNair says.

While in­ter­net con­nec­tiv­ity is as­sumed as a given in­many parts of the world, fig­ures show that 53 per­cent of the world pop­u­la­tion — or 3.9 bil­lion peo­ple—re­mains un­con­nected, ac­cord­ing to the In­ter­na­tional Telecom­mu­ni­ca­tion Union.

The ITU, a UN agency for in­for­ma­tion and com­mu­ni­ca­tion tech­nolo­gies, es­ti­mates al­most 75 per­cent of peo­ple in Africa do not use the in­ter­net com­pared to 21 per­cent of Euro­peans, and us­age rates are higher for men than women glob­ally.

McNair says One was en­cour­ag­ing tech lead­ers among the up to 50,000 at­ten­dees at the Web Sum­mit to rec­og­nize the im­por­tance of in­ter­net ac­ces­si­bil­ity and af­ford­abil­ity to the world’s poor­est peo­ple and find so­lu­tions to ad­dress this.

He says gov­ern­ments needed to in­vest more in tech­nol­ogy in­fra­struc­ture and change laws to open up in­ter­net and mo­bile mar­kets. The pri­vate sec­tor also had a role to play in find­ing in­no­va­tive ways to de­liver the in­ter­net to com­mu­ni­ties, he says.

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