Gender Equality: Access to digital technology needed for female empowerment

The World Bank reports that women in Africa are 50 percent less likely to use the internet than men, which can be a barrier to fulfilling gender equality.

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Women in developing nations like Ghana need better access to mobile phones and the internet to ensure they gain gender equality.

According to a report by mobile operators GSMA, women across the globe are 14 per cent less likely to own a mobile compared to men, and more than 1.7 billion women do not own a phone.

While mobile phone ownership is deemed a necessity in today’s world, with 80 percent of the population in developing countries owning a mobile phone, the World Bank argues attention needs to be focused on ensuring women have better access to this technology - particularly access to the internet.

The World Bank reports that women in Africa are 50 percent less likely to use the internet than men, which can be a barrier to their development, empowerment and the battle for gender equality.

Access to digital technologies can reduce gender gaps in the world of work by making work arrangements more flexible, connecting women to work, and generating new opportunities in online work, e-commerce, a World Bank report states.

It can also can help improve women’s access to and accumulation of productive assets like mobile money, a growing industry in Ghana.

 Access to social media is also important for women as it is an outlet where women can participate in public discussions and voice their opinions, learn from other women and become empowered through gender equality movements.

The United Nations has  also recently spoken out on the need for women to have better access to digital technologies to lead to gender equality.

In its 2015 Human Development Report, the United Nations found that fast technological progress wa playing its part in transforming what work means today and how it is performed, and it also found people were being left behind because of the changes, particularly women.

The report’s author Selim Jahan said globalization and technological changes are producing an increasingly polarized world of work which is “deepening inequalities". It found that today there are seven billion mobile phone subscriptions, 2.3 billion people with smart phones, and 3.2 billion with internet access.

Despite new opportunities, however, more jobs are now becoming vulnerable and a wide digital divide remains, the report notes. In 2015, 81 percent of households in developed countries have internet access, but only 34 percent in developing regions and 7 percent in the least developed countries have that access.

The report calls on governments to formulate national employment strategies that take into account the many challenges emerging in the rapidly changing world of work.

The report stated access to mobile phones can benefit many activities, “formal and informal, paid and unpaid, from food vendors in Cairo to street cleaners in Senegal to care providers in London.”

It said in Sub Saharan Africa unique mobile subscriptions are predicted to rise from 311 million in 2013 to 504 million in 2020. The United Nations report also said the digital economy has enabled many women to access work that lets them apply their creativity and potential.

In 2013 about 1.3 billion women were using the Internet, and some have moved to e-trading as entrepreneurs or are employed through crowdworking or e-services.

The United Nations said emphasis on technology puts a high premium on workers with skills and qualifications in science and technology, workers historically less likely to be women, and women are vastly underrepresented in these subjects.

It added that countries looking to spur innovation will thus need to boost female participation in technology-oriented education and jobs, which includes access to online education services.



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