The Good, Bad and Great News about Women on the Web in Developing Countries

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Just weeks ago Intel announced a groundbreaking new report focused on Women and the Web in developing countries. The report was released as the lead-in at a vibrant forum hosted by the State Department and UN Women that brought together people (mostly women) from organizations around the world. Attendees came together to engage in dialog about women, ICTs and development and how to mobilize resources to accelerate women’s access to transform their lives.
The report – available here – found that women, in general, have 25% less access to the Internet and in Sub-Saharan Africa that number soars to 45%. Even in rapidly developing economies the gap is immense: 35% in South Asia and the Middle East, 30% in Europe and North Asia.
Based on recent reports from UNESCO, 90% of the population in developing countries – populations outside urban areas – have little or no access to the Internet. This kind of access is increasingly important for community and economic development: it drives better education, healthcare, economic opportunity and enables people to engage their communities and the world. Internet access, the World Bank reports, has a dramatic impact on the GDP of a country.
The good news from the report is that access is growing rapidly. Ugandan Internet subscriptions doubled in 2010 and mobile subscriptions across Africa recently surpassed both the EU and the United States. These are positive numbers. The concern, however, is that if half of the population is without equal access, this acceleration may only serve to widen the gap. Women are just as critical – by some reports more critical – for development when compared to their male counterparts. And as Internet access becomes more ubiquitous the need to close the gender gap become more pressing.
At Inveneo we open doors to Internet access in emerging markets all over the world, but rarely do we get such a comprehensive analysis of the impact we’re making. Personally, I think that the best news in this report is that we’re now finally getting hard data on the importance of Internet access in developing countries. We’re able to look at the real issues surrounding connectivity and the gender divide. This report is a welcome validation of the challenges we’re working to solve.
Now, we just need to decide what to do with it. Let’s get working!