UN report highlights massive Internet gender gap
Globally, men have a much easier time accessing the Internet than women, according to a new report issued by the United Nations' Broadband Commission Working Group.
The report estimates that more than 200 million more men have access to the Internet than women, particularly in countries where Internet access is relatively new and still difficult to come by. Citing statistics from the ITU World Telecommunications/ICT Indicators database, the report says 41% of men worldwide are connected to the Internet, compared to 37% of women. In what is defined as the “developed world,” or countries with wide-reaching access to the Internet, 80% of men are online, compared 74% of women. In the “developing world,” those figures drop to 33% of all men and just 29% of women.
The gender gap in Internet services is particularly noticeable in major Arab countries, according to the report. Statistics from the Arab Advisors Group showed that higher percentages of men in Saudi Arabia, Morocco and Jordan use ecommerce services than women. In Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, no fewer than 62% of men use smartphones. Among those same countries, Morocco’s 38% of females using smartphones is the highest rate, according to the report.
Several factors contribute to the online gender gap. Specifically, the report mentions the online harassment and threats frequently aimed towards women.
Similarly, the report also cites studies showing “some early indications that cyberbullying might vary by gender,” and research indicating discrepancies in representations of men and women in popular culture.
By working through these issues and facilitating Internet access, the UN predicts that a larger presence of women online could have a drastic global economic impact.
“The World Bank (2009) estimates that every 10% increase in access to broadband results in 1.38% growth in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for developing countries,” the report says. “Bringing women online can boost GDP – Intel (2013) estimates that bringing 600 million additional women and girls online could boost global GDP by up to US$13-18 billion.”