(Part of the ongoing WISENET Series)
As the push towards ubiquitous broadband continues in the United States, we must not forget about the digital divide that women in low- and middle-income countries still battle. According to a 2010 study by the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW), we account for 25 percent or less of Internet users in Africa and Asia. This disparity is even more striking in the Middle East, where only 6 percent of Internet users are women. As a result, women in these countries are generally less literate than the men and are more likely to hold employment with little, if any, job security, wages, or benefits.
Technological innovation provides women with an opportunity to combat these results. Specifically, increased access to broadband technologies in these countries will increase women’s economic independence and efficiency. For example, the Negros Women of Tomorrow Foundation’s (NWTF) Village Phone Program, launched in 2007, has created over 300 phone-operation businesses in low-income countries. Initiatives such as this play a critical role in closing the digital gender divide. In addition to increasing broadband accessibility, it is important to focus on the creation of training programs to ensure that women are effectively utilizing newly introduced technologies.
The study conducted by ICRW can be found at their website.