Women's rights online: Translating access into empowerment

11 March 2016

By Web Foundation

This report explores the real extent of that divide in nine cities across nine developing countries, in order to gain a better understanding of the empowering potential of ICTs as a weapon against poverty and gender inequality, and the barriers that must be overcome to unlock it.

The research was designed and carried out in close collaboration with leading national civil society organisations in the countries we studied. The stereotype of poor people in the developing world uniformly “left behind” in the darkness of a life without internet connectivity is as misleading as its opposite: the cliche in which almost everyone in Nairobi or Jakarta now wields a mobile phone that gushes forth market price data, health information and opportunities for civic engagement.

Instead, this research reveals a picture of extreme inequalities in digital empowerment − which seem to parallel wider societal disparities in information-seeking, voice and civic engagement. For example, internet use among young, well-educated men and students in poor communities of the developing world rivals that of Americans, while internet use among older, uneducated women is practically non-existent

Table of contents

1. Executive summary — 3
2. Key recommendations — 6
3. The gender gap in internet access and use — 12
3.1. Who is online? — 12
3.2. What determines who is online? — 14
Education is the key — 14
Age — 15
Income — 16
Civic engagement and political participation — 18
3.3. What barriers do women perceive? — 18
Know-how — 18
Cost — 20
Time — 20
Relevance — 20
Infrastructure — 21
Access to internet-enabled devices — 21
Other factors — 22
4. The gender gap in digital empowerment — 24
4.1. Social capital — 24
4.2. Access to information to claim and demand rights — 28
4.3. Civic engagement and political voice — 31
4.4. Economic opportunity — 36
5. Constraints — 38
5.1. Online harassment — 38
5.2. Patriarchal attitudes to the internet — 40
5.3. Offline marginalisation — 41
6. Conclusion and recommendations: Closing the gender gap in ICT policy — 42
Recommendations — 43
Anex / List of tables and graphs / References

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