New GSMA Toolkit: How to Research Women’s Internet Access and Use

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Internet access and use has grown rapidly, however, internet growth has been unequal; the ITU estimates that, globally, women are 12% less likely than men to use the internet, and in two-thirds of countries, there is a higher proportion of men using the internet than women.
Even when women are online, they tend to use the internet less frequently and in different ways than men. The result is that existing gender inequalities are being compounded.
We Need Gender-Disaggregated Data on Internet Access
The lack of gender-disaggregated data and insights on internet access and use masks the true extent of the digital gender divide. Without this data, gender differences – and the underlying reasons for this gender gap – are also obscured.
To address the digital gender divide, the gap in internet access and use must be measured and understood, including how and where women are accessing and using the internet, why they use it or fail to use it, as well as their circumstances, needs, capabilities and preferences.
Currently, there is little statistically significant, comparable gender-disaggregated quantitative data on this topic at either the national level or for certain sub- segments of women, and there are also few qualitative insights.
The challenge is to collect sound, gender-disaggregated data (both qualitative and quantitative) on women’s internet access and use, highlighting the issue. This data can be used by a range of stakeholders, including policymakers, the private sector and others, to inform and develop strategies to close the gender gap in internet access and use and track the progress of these efforts.
Proactive collection of robust and comparable data across countries and contexts can help to construct a global picture of the digital gender gap and support the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for gender equality.
New Toolkit: Researching Women’s Internet Access and Use
The Toolkit for Researching Women’s Internet Access and Use has been designed to help researchers collect comparable, accurate data that is reliable and valid, by using example questions, for both qualitative and quantitative research approaches.
It is focused on qualitative and quantitative data collection in low- and middle-income countries as this is where the gender gap in internet access and use is largest.
The example research questions are intended to be used for researching women and men (aged 18+), and for individuals rather than households, to obtain gender-disaggregated insights and data.
Please note that these questions are intended for face-to-face interviews, although they could be adapted for online or telephone surveys or other methodologies. For quantitative research, using a face-to-face approach means that respondents do not have to use a device to qualify to be interviewed.
This enables more accurate and representative data collection on internet access and use, capturing users and non-users, both male and female (using online or telephone surveys is unlikely to reach respondents who do not use a mobile or the internet).
About the Women’s Internet Access Research Toolkit
This toolkit is the result of a collaboration between A4AI, the Web Foundation, the GSMA and APC, which have committed to advance the recommendations for action of the Broadband Commission Working Group on the Digital Gender Divide.
The toolkit builds on previous efforts by the GSMA, ITU, UNCTAD, USAID, the Web Foundation and others to develop research approaches and ICT indicators to better understand women’s internet access and use, but it does not necessarily represent the views of these organisations.
It outlines both core and supplementary research topics to gain insights into women’s internet access and use, and provides example questions for both qualitative and quantitative research. Building on existing indicators and initiatives, these questions are linked to the core list of indicators for ICT access and use produced by the Partnership on Measuring ICT for Development.
More Resources: USAID Gender and ICT Survey Toolkit
Recently USAID’s Global Development Lab and mStar project released the Gender and ICT Survey Toolkit. In an informative webinar (you can listen to the recording here), the team that produced the report discussed both the content and the context surrounding the genesis of the toolkit.
The USAID toolkit will help to fill the gap in available, standardized resources for obtaining an overall landscape assessment of gender and ICT for USAID programming. It provides USAID and implementing partners with practical, well-researched tools they can use to obtain data on women’s access and usage of mobile phones and other connected devices.
The Toolkit instructs users on how to understand the implications of landscape assessments and apply learnings to their project and program portfolios. It is important to note that although this is an ICT toolkit that references several different technologies, the primary focus is on mobile technology.
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