Bridging the Digital Gender Gap

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    • Despite progress in closing the global gender gap overall, women and girls continue to be left behind in the digital world.

    More about the Digital gender gap 

    • Meaning:
      • It is the inequalities between men and women in terms of access to information and communications technologies.
      •  The term “digital gender gap” was coined by UN Women in 2010.
      • Digital Equity:
        • Digital equity on the other hand is about providing everyone with equal opportunities to use technology to improve their lives. 
        • It includes making sure that everyone has access to the internet and the skills they need to use it effectively.
    • Data on the digital divide: 
      • UNICEF Report:
        • According to a UNICEF report, as many as 90% of the jobs in the world today have a digital component.
        • These jobs, however, are available only to the digitally able, and to more men than women
        • According to the report, in developing countries, only 41% of women have access to the internet compared with 53% of men. 
        • Women are 20% less likely to own a smartphone and are more likely to borrow phones from a male family member
      • OECD data:
        • Another report by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development revealed that the gender gap in internet use is widening
        • Software development remains a male-dominated field, with women comprising only 15% of software designers. 
      • ICUBE 2020:
        • ICUBE is an annual syndicated study of Kantar to measure the reach and frequency of Internet users in India.
        • Data on the use of the internet in India indicates that in comparison with 58% of male internet users, female users are only 42%. 

    Significance of bridging the Gender Digital Divide 

    • Benefits to women & Nation:
      • India aims to have a $1 trillion digital economy by 2025. 
        • Already, 40% of global digital transactions take place in India. 
        • In 2022, a staggering 49 billion digital transactions took place in India. 
      • As economies digitize further, there is every reason to believe that most jobs will require some knowledge of digital technology.
      • There are vast opportunities for girls and women to power India’s digital economy and benefit from it
    • Can act as a multiplier effect:
      • We have the world’s largest young population, and women and girls constitute almost half of it. 
      • Access to digital technology for a young woman can be a game changer with multiplier effects. 
    • Acting as a solution:
      • Giving women access to the internet and teaching them digital skills can help them overcome many of the obstacles they face.
      • With internet access, women can gain new knowledge and skills, connect with others, and find new opportunities. Digital knowledge can also play a significant role in women’s safety
      • With digital equity, women can be empowered to reach their full potential.

    Challenges leading to Gender Digital Divide 

    • The post-pandemic world:  
      • Children struggled to keep up with their studies using the limited smartphones and computers available to them. 
      • UNESCO estimated that around 168 million girls enrolled in pre-primary to tertiary levels of education were affected. 
        • It is possible that within some families, boys had more access to scarce digital resources. 
    • Always second to men:
      • Girls and women are denied access to digital technologies because they almost always come second in a patriarchal social order. 
      • Data on literacy, education, and access to resources confirm the reality of their being second to men.
    • Online abuse faced by women:
      • The dangerous trend in online abuse was forcing women out of jobs, causing girls to skip school, damaging relationships and silencing female opinions, prompting him to conclude that “the web is not working for women and girls”.
    • Offline impacts:
      • Online harassment often translates into offline impacts and consequences, with much-documented evidence in this regard. 
    • Inadequate artificial intelligence:
      • The third threat comes from badly designed artificial intelligence systems that repeat and exacerbate discrimination.

    Suggestions 

    • Addressing the divide:
      • Addressing the digital divide requires special, urgent and focused efforts of the government.
      • A large investment needs to be made, year after year, in digital infrastructure. 
    • Need of policy interventions:
      • Bridging the gender gap will require smart interventions specially designed for girls and women in health, education, employment, banking, skilling and transportation.
      • A favourable policy environment to promote the digital empowerment of women is a step in the right direction. 
    • Skills:
      • Digital skills, required today both for life and for livelihoods, must be imparted on a war footing by transforming government digital literacy programmes into skilling missions, and expanding outreach, including through the private sector.
    • Online safety of women:
      • Social media sites can use their “algorithm power” to proactively tackle the issue of safety.
      • Governments need to strengthen laws that hold online abusers to account, and the public to speak up whenever they witnessed abuse online.
    • Example of ‘Digital Sakhis’:
      • Young women known as ‘Digital Sakhis’ from Madhya Pradesh are upturning discriminatory social norms through the use of smartphones.

    Way ahead

    • The digital gender gap is not only a modern social evil but also a huge economic constraint
    • To leave women out of the digital world would amount to denying what today has become a basic skill for survival.
    • Making the right use of the G20 platform:
      • Prime Minister has emphasized the need for ‘women-led development’ as India took over the G20 presidency. 
      • Women20—the G20’s official engagement platform to promote gender equity—identifies “bridging the gender digital divide” as one of its five priorities that need to be mainstreamed as part of the G20 agenda this year.

    Daily Mains Question

    [Q] Despite progress in closing the global gender gap overall, women and girls continue to be left behind in the digital world. Analyse. Suggest ways to effectively achieve Digital Equity.