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Five barriers to women’s online empowerment — new Digital Gender Audit released

Web Foundation · September 9, 2016

Web Foundation research shows women in developing countries are 50% less likely to use the Internet than men. How much progress are countries around the world making on closing this divide, and what do they need to do to move faster? Our report cards assess country efforts ahead of the Africa Summit on Women and Girls in Technology.

Internet access is a human right — and rightly so; without it, you are not part of the modern economy and society. You are not heard. You cannot access critical information. You are not empowered. That’s why the UN Sustainable Development Goals pledge to achieve universal Internet access for all women and men, and to advance the empowerment of women and girls through ICTs.

But how close are we to actually achieving gender equality in the digital world?

Today we are releasing report cards that assess progress on closing the digital gender divide in ten countries, six of which are in Africa: Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique, Egypt, Nigeria, and Uganda. (The other four countries covered by the scorecards are Colombia, India, Indonesia, and the Philippines.)

The report cards score efforts and outcomes across five priority areas where governments can make changes now to ensure women are empowered through access to the Web. Here’s a snapshot of the global results:

1. Internet access & women’s empowerment: 3/10

Most countries (with the exception of India and the Philippines, who have almost closed the gap in urban areas) still have significant gender gaps in Internet access and empowerment. Men are more likely to be online. And even once connected, women are less likely than men to use the Internet to find critical information, get engaged in the community or politics, or increase their income. What’s more, it’s tough to measure progress since gender-disaggregated data on these metrics is largely absent.

2. Affordability: 5/10

The countries we assessed in our scorecards averaged just 5/10 for affordable access. None of the African countries studied met A4AI’s ideal target of 1GB of data for less than 2% of monthly income. In Uganda, 1GB of mobile broadband costs more than 22% of average monthly income. Given that women on average earn 25% less than men globally, high Internet prices discriminate disproportionately against women.

3. Digital skills & education: 3/10

For women who were not online, our Women’s Rights Online study found that “not knowing how” to use the Internet was the most commonly cited barrier. Yet, the countries we assessed are making painfully slow progress on providing digital literacy training and Internet access in public schools.

4. Relevant content & services: 4/10

In most countries, women cannot find relevant content online easily — whether it is information in their native language or information that is useful for their daily lives. Two key areas we identified were (1) reproductive and sexual health and (2) access to mobile financial services. While Kenya has strong and growing Internet financial services for women, other countries are falling far short in this area; none of the African and Asian countries studied have strong women’s sexual health content available online.

5. Online safety: 3/10

When it comes to tackling online violence against women, we found little progress since our 2014 Web Index finding that 74% of countries were not doing enough. Notably, police and courts in almost all countries we reviewed are still not equipped to handle ICT-mediated violence and harassment cases. Legislation to protect the privacy of data and communications is also still lacking across many countries. Until we make the Web a safe space for women, its true potential will remain untapped.


These findings show there is a formidable gender gap in empowerment through the Web. The good news is that we can change the situation through sound government policies that correct this trajectory. Using these findings, we will discuss and debate solutions at the upcoming Africa Summit on Women and Girls in Technology, and will work toward developing a set of recommendations for African governments to take in order to improve women’s access to and empowerment through the Web. We also hope to create a network of women — and men — pushing for greater digital equality that will support economic and social progress as part of the sustainable development agenda.

What is the Africa Summit on Women and Girls in Technology?

On September 13 and 14th, 2016, the Web Foundation and the Alliance for Affordable Internet — in partnership with UN Women, the African Development Bank, and the Kofi Annan Centre of Excellence — are gathering voices from across the continent for the 2016 Africa Summit on Women and Girls in Technology — the first event in the region to focus explicitly on the link between technology policy and women’s digital empowerment.

Join the conversation on 13-14 September using the hashtag #TechWomenAfrica and by following the @webfoundation and @A4A_Internet accounts for live updates. Stay on top of post-Summit discussions and action plans by signing up here.   

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  1. Brenda Zulu

    September 14, 2016

    Gender and ICTS are real


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    1. akagbuo felix

      July 7, 2017

      thank you for your empowerment to hope people.


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