Africa: Internet Inaccessibility Widening Gender Inequalities Further

13 October 2021

Gender inequalities which have been widened by the impacts of Covid-19 will expand even further if barriers to girls and women's access to the internet are not removed, activists said on Monday.

During a United Nations forum that marked the International Day of the Girl, advocate for the rights of girls with disabilities and a member of the UN Women Girls Advisory Group Isadora Guzmán, said exclusion from internet accessibility exposes her representative group to multiple forms of discrimination.

She urged governments to ensure all women and girls have equal access to the internet and digital technology.

"If we work homogenously, thinking that we do not have differences, we will contribute to discrimination," she said.

Affordability

UN Women Strategic Partnerships Division director Daniel Seymour, challenged countries to make deliberate efforts to expand women's access to the internet.

"We have to get to a place where access to technology is not seen as something nice to have but as a critical enabler of equality. And so governments have to have policies to make that happen," he said.

By improving affordability of digital devices such as the smart phones and laptops, and giving girls scholarships to study technology related fields, countries will have progressed in bridging the gender digital divide, he argued.

Digital divide

He said although education is a way out of the gender digital divide, adoption of remote learning has compromised the learning of millions of girls across the world who lack internet-enabled devices.

According to the Wide Web Foundation, globally, more than two billion women are estimated to be offline. And even where they have access to the internet, they are less likely than men to make full use of the opportunities associated with connectivity.

Of worry is that countries are making zero to little efforts to end the inequalities in access and use of digital technology.

A 2017 Alliance for Affordable Internet survey which analysed 58 countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, and Asia on the existence of policies designed to encourage increased access, training and use of the internet for women and girls proved this.

It found "very little to no discussion of the digital gender gap and possible responses to address the problem at the policy level," in the respective countries.

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