In poor na­tions, 3rd fewer women than men on­line

Kuwait Times - - TECHNOLOGY -

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 an­tipoverty group said yes­ter­day. A study by the ONE or­ga­ni­za­tion, co-founded by Irish rock star Bono to tackle ex­treme poverty, found 18 per­cent of men in the 48 least de­vel­oped na­tions are on­line ver­sus 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 di­vide would widen fur­ther by 2020 to about 32 per­cent when fac­tor­ing in pop­u­la­tion growth and cur­rent internet trends, to a gap of 53.5 mil­lion. The re­port said a global tar­get set by U.N. 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 Mark Zucker­berg 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 at ONE, said the new anal­y­sis showed that al­most 350 mil­lion women and 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 then this also ben­e­fits their fam­i­lies, com­mu­ni­ties and coun­tries,” McNair told the Thom­son Reuters Foun­da­tion in an in­ter­view in Lis­bon.

Women in­vest in fam­i­lies

Stud­ies re­peat­edly show that women plough 90 per­cent of their in­come back into their fam­i­lies com­pared to men, who in­vest about 35 per­cent in their fam­i­lies. While internet con­nec­tiv­ity is as­sumed as a given in many 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 (ITU).

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. A sur­vey of 40 coun­tries by the US-based Pew Re­search Cen­ter ear­lier this year found Nige­ria, Kenya and Ghana were the coun­tries with the largest di­vide be­tween the num­bers of men and women likely to use the internet. McNair said 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 said 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 said. “We want tech lead­ers to use their bril­liant minds to find so­lu­tions to help those liv­ing in poverty and not just peo­ple in Lon­don and San Fran­cisco,” said McNair. “We need to stop the next gen­er­a­tion of women miss­ing the op­por­tu­ni­ties for em­pow­er­ment, ed­u­ca­tion and in­clu­sion of­fered by the internet.” —Reuters

WASH­ING­TON: In this Nov 5, 2008, file photo, peo­ple line up out­side of the Wash­ing­ton Post news­pa­per to pur­chase spe­cial elec­tion edi­tions. —AP

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