The internet has the potential to improve people’s lives: through participation and inclusion; efficient organisational and administrative procedures and more possibilities for creativity and innovation. However, it needs access to go online. But lots of women worldwide still do not have the same opportunities to access and use digital technologies as men do. We asked ourselves what could be done to bridge the digital divide and let women and girls benefit from the empowering potential of digitization.
Our survey focuses on six countries, four of which received mid-level rankings in the socioeconomic development index published in the Human Development Report (Brazil, India, Indonesia and South Africa), Germany is among the top 10, whereas Ethiopia comes in towards the bottom of the table.
We interviewed start-up founders about the significance and position of women on the digital maps of their countries and markets. We visited social enterprises and enquired into the specific opportunities for, and obstacles to, reaching women and girls via digital channels. We asked people whose initiatives and products aim at empowering women and girls, about which strategies have been particularly successful. Additional interviews with experts serve to contextualise the field reports in relation to current political, economic and sociocultural frameworks.
Since the six countries are diverse, many of our insights were country-specific. However, we also encountered striking similarities and parallels uniting the countries: access to, and interaction with, the internet is structured by differences between rural and urban areas, between age cohorts and income and ownership categories.
How does the bridge of the digital gap look like?
- First and foremost: Doing more research and keeping the subject of digital equality high on the political agenda! In fighting the gender specific conditions to access the internet, we need to better understand the specific contexts and needs of women worldwide. Data needs to be collected close to real time and in more frequent cycles to display the dynamics of digital transformation.
- Services need to be tailored to the living and working realities of women. Access to IT-Services, especially for girls, needs to be provided starting at school level – through the necessary infrastructure, skilled teachers and specific programs after schools and during holidays. Programs need to continue throughout secondary and tertiary school and universities.
- Services and programs should be designed and tested following a user-centered approach, integrate a peer-tp-peer approach and provide a secure access, either being women-only or moderated to prevent verbal violence and harassment. We need digital safe spaces for women.
- We have to promote the visibility of female role models.
Who are we telling that?
We present our study at the W20 summit 24-26th April in Berlin and discuss our findings together with international representatives. Our recommendations will be part of the official W20 Communiqué which will be handed to Chancellor Angela Merkel at the end of the summit. She will take the Communiqué to the G20 discussions in July.
Now it’s on you! You find our study “Bridging the Digital Gender Gap” on Slideshare or here as a download. We are looking forward to your feedback.