W20: Bridging the Digital Gender Gap

September 13, 2018

The importance of advancing digital inclusion for women has been recognized by the Women 20 (W20), the official engagement group of the G20, advising the G20 on issues around gender equality and the economic empowerment of women. In fact digital inclusion is one of the four focus topics of the W20 Argentina.

As W20 Topic Chair on Digital Inclusion, the GSMA has collaborated with the W20 to produce a Policy Brief which sets out recommendations for action for bridging the digital gender gap. It highlights the importance of advancing digital inclusion for women, describes some of the challenges and outlines recommendations for coordinated and effective action by the G20 to support women’s empowerment and equal participation in the digital future.

The W20 policy brief highlights the need:

  • for better gender disaggregated data to understand and measure the digital gender gap and inform policy and business choices that can help bridge it;
  • to effectively integrate gender in policies and plans;
  • to address key barriers related to accessibility, affordability, safety, digital skills training and content relevance; and
  • and for coordinated action among stakeholders.

For most of the world’s population, mobile is also the primary way to access the internet. It has the power to transform lives and contribute achievement of UN Sustainable Development Goals. However, while mobile and internet connectivity is spreading quickly it is not spreading equally and there is a persistent gender gap. Our 2018 report on the mobile gender gap estimates that over 1.2 billion women in low- and middle-income countries do not use mobile internet and women are, on average, 26 per cent less likely to use mobile internet.  The latest estimates from the ITU suggest that women globally are 12% less likely than men to have internet access and that in Least Developed Countries (LDCs) women are 33% less likely to use the internet.

Through the GSMA Connected Women Commitment Initiative, mobile operators are driving an effort to accelerate digital and financial inclusion across Africa, Asia and Latin America and have already reached more than 12 million women. However, more needs to be done to close the gender gap and ensure that women, as well as societies and economies everywhere, do not lose out on the socio-economic benefits of full participation in the digital economy.

W20 has issued a call to action to the G20 members states to close the digital gender divide and prevent digital inequality. This call to action acknowledges that digital technologies have become a powerful source of social and economic development, offering substantial benefits for individuals and society in areas such as financial services, health, education and entrepreneurship.

We also recently highlighted practical actions that can be taken to address the mobile gender gap and accelerate digital and financial inclusion for women. The digital gender gap is not going to close on its own and it is imperative that all stakeholders take action to ensure that women are not left behind.

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