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Mozambique: What is keeping women offline?

Web Foundation · December 11, 2015

As part of our Women’s Rights Online research, this series of guest blogs features on-the-ground perspectives from each of our research partners around the world. In this post, Mozambique’s Science, Innovation, Information and Communications Technology Research Institute (SIITRI) analyses Mozambique’s Women’s Rights Online study results and outlines how to get more of the country’s women online.

The Women’s Rights Online Mozambique report found that while nearly all women and men in Maputo slum areas own a mobile phone, only 33% of women had accessed the Internet,compared to 59% of men. These results confirm that women and girls are being excluded online in Mozambique, and that we must take action to make sure the digital future is inclusive.

As part of the project, we surveyed men and women in 29 urban poor areas of the capital, Maputo to learn more about why the gap in Internet access persists.

In our survey, women cited four main barriers to Internet access:

  1. Many women have never learned how to use the Internet
  2. Women simply do not have a device
  3. Women are not able to access the Internet on their devices
  4. High costs, including both network costs and the opportunity cost of accessing the Internet, prevent women from accessing the Internet

Another important issue we considered was how women use their mobile phones. Since the mobile phone is the first place many people experience the Internet, we needed to know if the increase in mobile phone use was benefitting women in terms of online access.

The majority of respondents (96% of men and 93% of women) used their mobile phone every day. The service most frequently used by respondents was combination of voice calls and SMS, and the frequency of use of these services was higher amongst women (64%) when compared with men (49%), as more men used a combination of voice, SMS and data services.

This discrepancy in ownership and access to data services can be explain in part by differences between men and women’s disposable income. A greater percentage of men than women own a mobile phone and spend more on accessing data.

How can Mozambique expand women’s access to the Web?

It’s clear that efforts are needed to expand women’s access. There is much to be done, but we recommend focussing on four key areas to tackle the gap in Mozambique:

  1. Improve education: First and foremost, we must tackle low levels of education and high illiteracy rates of women and girls. Keeping girls in school longer means reading skills will improve. The government should also integrate ICT skills training into the curriculum early on, to equip girls with the tools they need to enter the information economy.
  1. Change attitudes: We must also encourage changes in cultural attitudes. The gender gap in education is often due to domestic responsibilities, and traditions that downplay the importance of girls’ education.
  1. Provide affordable public access: In order to facilitate access for women, ICTs need to be located in other local institutions women frequent where they feel safe and welcome. These might include NGOs, women’s employment centres, libraries and health centres. Providing Internet access in a local health centre could bring the added benefit of increasing women’s access to health information during their visits.
  1. Reduce the cost of mobile Internet: So many women own mobiles, but so few are using them to get connected. Mozambique could consider introducing a subsidised or free Internet access scheme, providing more women with the opportunity to use the devices they already have to get online.

How can we make this happen?

Mozambique was one of the first countries to adopt a comprehensive ICT policy and implementation strategy. As a next step, it needs to become fully gender responsive. SIITRI will target politicians, policy makers and influencers directly with these recommendations to close the gender gap in ICTs through engagement events, workshops and roundtables. We have already begun this work by advocating at a national level at the Maputo Internet Forum organised by Swedish Embassy in October, through the ongoing work and advocacy of the A4AI-Mozambique National Coalition, and by hosting a workshop on “Advocating for Empowerment of Women through ICTs and the Web” in late November. It is our objective to secure concrete and time-bound  commitments from the government to close the digital gender gap.

We must ensure the digital revolution is a revolution for women and girls. We hope this project has begun that process, and we are excited about the possibilities for women and girls in Mozambique. You can follow our updates on our website.

If you enjoyed this blog, take a look at submissions from our other country partners from around the world and sign up to our newsletter or follow @webfoundation on Twitter for updates on the programme using #WomensRightsOnline.

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