Our world has reached a pivotal moment in history. Our lives and society have become more digital than ever before since the outbreak, altering the foundation of our economy from physical to digital space.
On the one hand, COVID-19 widened the gap between men and women in the digital world, pushing equality back a generation. The digital acceleration, on the other hand, fueled by the current medical and economic turmoil, provides a historical possibility for radical transformation that we must seize.
Do you know that?
- 52% of men have access to the internet than women in the world’s least developed countries.
- To bridge the digital gender means more improved access to internet devices and education plus training.
- Many real-world examples show how many women are empowered to join the digital revolution with the right support.
Transforming women’s digital access ideas into actions
Men are 21% more likely than women to have access to the internet globally. This probability jumps to 52 percent in the world’s least developed countries. Women who face intersectional bias and live in low-income communities have even less access to the internet and digital devices, resulting in many serious, sometimes life-threatening effects.
Such is the unfortunate story of Aishwarya Reddy, a bright 19-year-old LSR College student who couldn’t afford to purchase a laptop and was put under a lot of stress because she couldn’t join her online lectures. In November 2020, soon before the finals, she committed suicide.
Although heartbreaking, Aishwarya’s death was not in vain. It has raised awareness of the underlying issue, which is the ongoing digital gender disparity and its immediate effects on educational and emotional problems. It also sparked a wave of global cooperation.
Acquiring skills to close the gender gap in the digital world
It’s one thing to provide internet connectivity and equipment; it’s another to provide certified education and training. Knowing that 85 percent of jobs in 2030 will be created by new technology, we understand how critical it is for women to enter the field.
Women account for less than 15% of ICT professionals in G20 countries, and the gender and skills gap is widening each year. This is due to various factors, including gender stereotypes and prejudices and socio-cultural restrictions.
Reinforcing the need for digital transformation for women
COVID-19 has presented the globe with critical and unique issues, reinforcing the need for digital technology and connection. During the outbreak, technology use and digital transformations became the new normal on many fronts. Many companies, including entrepreneurs, employees, students, and families, have adopted alternate ways to obtain services and information in their work and personal life due to COVID-19 control measures enacted by governments. Remote learning, work-from-home, business, and service provisions, such as healthcare, banking, market access, and entertainment, have benefited from digital platforms.
But what does this entail for women who have little or no access to the internet? What does it mean to be a woman with restricted or no access? First, a woman with restricted or no access does not own digital devices (such as a phone, tablet, or computer), either because she cannot afford to buy them or as she’s not allowed to own them due to socio-cultural and gendered norms in the household or community.
Second, even if a woman owns a digital gadget, her use can be tightly regulated at home and in the community. Third, women are denied the opportunity to use and profit from digital devices and the internet due to a lack of basic education and technical abilities. Fourth, the expense of using the internet continues to be a significant barrier to women’s internet access.
Closing the digital gender divide
The pandemic has revealed alarming gendered inequities in the workplace, particularly connectedness. Lack of information, knowledge, and skills to understand, acquire, and use digital tools for their business operation. Support market access and identification of new delivery channels for their products have resulted in lost income and livelihoods for many female entrepreneurs in the formal and informal sectors, exacerbating inequalities compared to men. The increased care load owing to the closure of schools and daycare centres has further resulted in a conflict in work-life balance where technology is available, and women have the necessary capabilities.
Digital literacy and the significance of digital platforms cannot be ignored and must be seen as a way to advance. Digital platforms play an important role in spreading information and expanding access to services and educational opportunities. India needs to shift from words to action to eliminate the digital gender gap by implementing the following measures:
- Invest in and scale up simple, cost-effective technology and digital training for women while protecting their online privacy and safety;
- Develop policies, programs, and tools to address barriers to protecting the rights of women in digital access, use, and safety
- Develop and implement initiatives to break negative cultural and gender stereotypes that keep women offline and without access.
Patriarchy has been going on for aeons, and it’s about time to close this gender disparity and let women take the lead and make a move. It is sad to see many countries, including India, lack equality in this digital world.