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  • Writer's pictureMichaela Jamelska

The Numbers Don't Lie: The Reality of Limited Technology Access for Women

The fight for women's rights has been a long and challenging journey, marked by significant achievements and setbacks. The right to vote, obtained through the suffragette movement, stands as a major milestone in this struggle. Despite these accomplishments, gender inequality persists in various forms, from the gender pay gap to limited access to technology. This article sheds light on data and statistical information that reveal the extent to which women's access to technology remains limited.

According to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), approximately 2.7 billion people worldwide still lack reliable internet connections, with women being disproportionately affected. This disparity is referred to as the digital divide, which describes the gap between those who have access to technology and those who do not.

Unfortunately, this divide disproportionately impacts more women than men, particularly those residing in low-income communities. As per global surveys, more than 58% of men have internet access, while less than 48% of women do.

Many women, including those in Europe and North America, face challenges accessing services due to high costs or limited availability in rural or underserved areas. The disparity is even more pronounced in developing countries. For instance, in Africa, only 34% of women have internet access compared to 45% of men.

In the Arab world, 75% of men have reliable internet connections, while only 65% of women enjoy the same privilege. ITU data also reveals that in the least developed countries, only 19% of women used the internet in 2020, compared to 86% in developed countries in 2019. Furthermore, despite the expansion of online business and mobile money services, more than 900 million women globally remain excluded from the digital economy and lack access to banking services. Bridging the digital gender gap requires not only infrastructure investments but also making digital technologies more affordable, as cost remains a significant obstacle for women to access the internet. In certain low-income households, accessing the Internet often means sacrificing essential purchases like food, healthcare, and clothing.

Over the past decade, women's exclusion from the digital sphere has resulted in a $1 trillion reduction in the GDP of low- and middle-income countries. This not only limits their digital empowerment but also hampers the transformative potential of technology as a whole, according to UN Women. When we look at some other nations, such as Argentina and South Africa, have utilized funds from universal service funds to support ICT access for women and girls. Canada has also included an Affordable Access program in its 2017 budget, partnering with service providers to offer affordable home internet packages to low-income families. These initiatives demonstrate the importance of proactive government intervention and collaboration with service providers to address the digital gender gap.

While technology has the potential to enhance women's access to healthcare, education, and economic opportunities, there are persistent barriers. For example, web-based educational platforms can provide women with access to education and skill-building programs that contribute to their professional growth. However, the gender gap in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields remains prevalent, even in developed countries where women make up only 28% of the STEM workforce. Factors such as lack of funding, internet infrastructure, and workplace discrimination contribute to this disparity. Moreover, biased technological development can perpetuate existing gender prejudices. Facial recognition technology, for instance, is less accurate in identifying women than men, which can have implications for women's safety and security. This exemplifies how technology can reinforce gender disparities if equal access to technology is not addressed as a fundamental concern.

It is widely recognized that education plays a vital role in promoting women's participation in the technology industry.

To overcome the existing barriers that create a digital gender divide, it is essential to develop innovative and tailored education programs and educational technology solutions that meet the specific needs of women and girls worldwide. This requires consistent funding and a global commitment to implementing these changes. By equipping women with the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in the technology industry, bridging the digital divide, and advancing their careers, we can work toward a more inclusive and equal society.

While technology can be a powerful tool for advancing women's rights, it is not a cure-all solution. It is crucial to address the underlying systemic issues that perpetuate gender inequality and ensure equal access to the benefits of technology for everyone, regardless of gender. Only through collaborative efforts can we achieve true gender equality and create a more just and equitable society for all.

References: Equal Measures 2030. OECD. ITU.American Association of University Women. UN Women


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