New research by the Web Foundation shows that the dramatic spread of mobile phones is not enough to get women online, or to achieve empowerment of women through technology. The study, based on a survey of thousands of poor urban men and women across nine developing countries*, found that while nearly all women and men own a phone, women are still nearly 50% less likely to access the Internet than men in the same communities, with Internet use reported by just 37% of women surveyed. Once online, women are 30-50% less likely than men to use the Internet to increase their income or participate in public life.
- Lack of know-how and high cost are the two main barriers keeping women offline. Women are 1.6 times more likely than men to report lack of skills as a barrier to Internet use, while one gigabyte of data costs as much as 76% of monthly poverty line incomes in the countries in the study.
- Women’s access to education is a strong determinant of Internet use. Controlling for other variables, urban poor women with at least some secondary education were six times more likely to be online than urban poor women with lower levels of schooling.
- Maintaining existing family and neighbourhood ties through social media is the main Internet activity for urban poor women, with 97% of male and female Internet users surveyed using social media.
- Only a small minority of women Internet users surveyed are tapping into technology’s full empowering potential. Controlling for other variables, women are 25% less likely to use the Internet for job-seeking than men,and 52% less likely than men to express controversial views online.
- However, the research also identified a group of women digital trailblazers. Women who are active in offline community life are three times more likely than others to speak out online on important issues, controlling for education, age and income.
- Young people were most likely to have suffered harassment online, with over six in 10 women and men aged 18 – 24 saying they had suffered online abuse.
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*The survey was conducted by Ipsos-Mori in ten countries: Cameroon, Colombia, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria, Philippines, Uganda. The global report launched on 21st October will include all countries except Egypt, which will be published at a later date.