Report reveals wide Internet gender gap in developing nations

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To better understand the gender gap, chipmaker Intel commissioned the study and consulted with the US State Department’s Office of Global Women’s Issues, UN Women and World Pulse, a global network for women. The report issues a call to action to double the number of women and girls online in developing countries from 600 million today to 1.2 billion in 3 years. On average, across the developing world nearly 25 percent fewer women than men have access to the Internet, and the gender gap soars to nearly 45 percent in regions such as sub-Saharan Africa, according to the report. Further, the study found that one in five women in India and Egypt believes the Internet is not appropriate for them. Seeing another 600 million women online would mean that 40 percent of women and girls in developing countries — nearly double the share today — would have access to the transformative power of the Internet. This goal, if realized, could potentially contribute an estimated $13 billion to $18 billion to annual GDP across 144 developing countries. “There is wide acknowledgement around the globe that women’s empowerment is a basic issue of social and economic justice and also essential to wider social progress and sustainable development,” said Michelle Bachelet, under-secretary-general and executive director, UN Women. “This report demonstrates that expanding access to the Internet and technology for women and girls is critical to their improved education, increased opportunity and ability to foster entrepreneurship in countries around the world.” The report’s findings are based on interviews and surveys of 2,200 women and girls living in urban and peri-urban areas of four focus countries: Egypt, India, Mexico and Uganda, as well as analyses of global databases. The findings were unveiled during a panel discussion in Washington, DC as part of the 2-day international working forum on women, ICT (Information and Communication Technologies) and development hosted by the State Department and UN Women. Key highlights from the report:

? Gender barriers are real. One in five women in India and Egypt believes the Internet is not “appropriate” for them. On average across the developing world, nearly 25 percent fewer women than men have access to the Internet, and the gender gap soars to nearly 45 percent in regions such as sub-Saharan Africa.

? Bridging the Internet gender gap:

o Boosts women’s income and income potential. Across the surveyed countries, nearly half of respondents used the Web to search for and apply for a job, and 30 percent had used the Internet to earn additional income.

o Increases women’s sense of empowerment. More than 70 percent of Internet users considered the Internet “liberating” and 85 percent said it “provides more freedom.”

? Enabling Internet access for more women and girls in developing countries promises immediate, and immense, benefits. Seeing another 600 million women online would mean that 40 percent of women and girls in developing countries, nearly double the share today, would have access to the transformative power of the Internet. And, it could potentially contribute an estimated $13 billion to $18 billion to annual GDP across 144 developing countries.

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