Women exclusion in digital transformation costs economies $1tr in 10 years
• Closing digital gender gap can add $524b to economies in five years
The inability of women to play active roles in digital transformation and decision-making sessions has cost low and lower middle income countries’ (LLMICs) economies $1 trillion in the last 10 years.
The Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI) and World Wide Web Foundation, which disclosed this in a research, listed the African countries in the 32 LLMICs to include Algeria, Angola, Burundi, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, DR Congo, Egypt, Ghana, Guinea, Kenya, Morocco, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sudan, Tanzania, Tunisia, Zambia and Zimbabwe from Africa.
The study measured how the digital gender gap – the difference between the number of women and men who can access the Internet – has affected economic output across 32 countries, with the majority residing in Africa.
A4AI and World Wide Web Foundation in the study titled, “The Costs of Exclusion – Economic Consequences of the Digital Gender Gap,” said in those countries, there is still a substantial digital gender gap, with just over a third of women connected to the Internet, compared to almost half of men. Men are 21 per cent more likely to be online than women globally, and that rises to 52 per cent in the least-developed countries.
The report said there is a substantial digital gender gap, which is not getting better, adding that in the 32 countries studied, just over a third of women are connected to the internet compared to almost half of men.
“Since 2011, the gender gap has only dropped half a percentage point, from 30.9 per cent to 30.4 per cent,” it stated. According to the report, various barriers prevent women and girls from accessing the Internet and participating online, including unaffordable devices and data tariffs, inequalities in education and digital skills, social norms that discourage women and girls from being online, and fears around privacy, safety and security.
“Few governments have implemented specific policies designed to remove a range of barriers that prevent women from using the Internet,” the report said.
Web Foundation Director of Research, Catherine Adeya, said closing the digital gender gap is not just a moral cause, but also an economic imperative. “As the Internet becomes a more potent enabler for education, business, and community mobilization, a failure to deliver access for all means failing to realize everyone’s potential to contribute,” she stated
According to her, governments that enable women to fully participate in the digital revolution will unlock a wealth of creativity and productivity.
The report observed that in the early 2000s, the overwhelming majority of new Internet users were male. This began to change about a decade later as the Internet became more ubiquitous throughout the world.
According to it, between 2011 and 2020, the share of women connected to the Internet rose from 12.2 per cent to 34.3 per cent. Despite this increase, it wasn’t substantial enough for women to catch up with their male counterparts.
The report estimated that in 2020, the digital gender gap costs LLMICs a total of $126 billion. This represented a loss of more than $24 billion in tax revenues, funds that could be used to invest in education, health and infrastructure programs.
Director of Digital Development at the World Bank and A4AI Advisory Council member, Boutheina Guermazi, said the report revealed just how expensive gender inequality is for all of us, “investing in a more inclusive digital future gives leaders a tremendous opportunity to promote economic growth while creating healthier societies by addressing inequalities in education and earning power.
“For governments looking to build a resilient economy as part of their COVID-19 recovery plans, closing the digital gender gap should be one of the top priorities.”
The report predicted that closing the digital gender gap would add an estimated $524 billion in economic activity over the next five years.
Going forward, the study noted that as economies have contracted in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, governments are looking to the digital world as a new, robust source of economic productivity and growth.