15.03.2017 - ODG

Call to Action to Close Digital Gender Gap

© ITU/M. Jacobson - Gonzalez -Irina Bokova, UNESCO Director General, and Mats Granryd, Director General, GSMA, Broadband Commission Working Group on the Digital Gender Divide, 15 March 2017, Hong Kong

Effective and tangible action is urgent, says new report

On 15 March, UNESCO Director-General, Irina Bokova, co-chaired the Working Group on the Digital Gender Divide, with the Chief Executive Officer of GSMA, Mr Mats Granryd. The event was held within the framework of the Broadband Commission for Sustainable Digital Development in Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China.

The Working Group launched the new report, “Recommendations for action: bridging the gender gap in Internet and broadband access and use”, which sets specific recommendations to address the barriers women face in access and use of the Internet for all stakeholders.

The report highlights key action areas for all stakeholders as part of the group’s ongoing efforts to ensure that all women and girls can fully participate in the online world.

Despite worldwide efforts, the global Internet user gender gap grew from 11% in 2013 to 12% in 2016, with the estimated gap highest in Least Developed Countries (LDCs) (31%) and Africa (23%). Moreover, Internet penetration rates remain higher from men than women in all regions of the world.

“The continuous development of new technologies and their application is creating new opportunities that can enhance the quality of human life,” said Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO. “To be sustainable, all new opportunities must be available to all, to empower all, for the benefit of all -- especially, girls and women.”

“Addressing the digital gender divide is critical to realizing the significant potential benefits that the Internet can bring for women, their communities and the broader economy,” Mats Granryd, Director General of GSMA, said. “We hope that the recommended actions in this report will inspire concerted efforts to reduce the gender gap in Internet access and use. Working together, we can make significant strides to address the digital gender divide, supporting the SDGs.”

Structural inequalities remain and impede women’s full participation in the digital economy. Greater Internet access and use can not only have a profound impact on women’s lives, but can deliver significant benefits to the wider economy and society, and support the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

In addition, closing the gender gap in mobile phone ownership and usage in low- and middle-income countries represents an estimated USD170 billion market opportunity for the mobile industry from 2015 to 2020.

Sustainable Development Goal 9c contains a target for universal and affordable access to ICTs in LDCs by 2020.

The report identified four specific action areas for closing the digital gender gap:

  • Detailed evidence: collect, analyze and track sex-disaggregated data to inform policy, particularly at a national and sub-national level, through a greater understanding of the issue.
  • Policy integration: integrate gender equality targets and key performance indicators into strategies, policies, plans and budgets, involving women and relevant local communities from the onset.
  • Action: confront barriers that impede gender equality online, including affordable access; issues around safety; digital literacy and confidence; and the availability of relevant content, applications and services.
  • Multi-stakeholder cooperation: develop tools and policies to support national and international efforts, and effective sharing of best practices to address the digital gender gap.

The report recognizes the different but complementary roles of various actors, including governments and policy-makers, private sector, intergovernmental organizations, NGOs, and academia and research institutions, and outlines detailed recommendation action points for each stakeholder group.

"We need new leadership at every level," said the Director-General, "starting with Governments and with all actors, including the private sector, to show by example and lead the way."

The Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development was established in 2010 and comprises of more than 50 leaders from across a range of government and industry sectors. They are committed to actively supporting countries, UN experts and NGOs to fully leverage the potential of ICT to drive national Sustainable Development Goal strategies in key areas such as education, healthcare, gender equality and environmental management.

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