A majority of women across the world have yet to connect to the internet. What does that mean for the world – in terms of economic opportunities, scientific innovations, and societal transformations lost?
The Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI) and Web Foundation were recently selected for a grant from the Internet Society Foundation, an organisation that champions ideas and enables communities to unlock the internet’s potential to tackle the world’s evolving challenges, through its Research Grant Programme for a multi-year study of the economic cost of the digital gender gap.
Women represent a majority of the world’s offline population, and this gap between men and women is most critical across sub-Saharan Africa and in South Asia. These two regions will be the focus of our research.
Through this project, we aim to bring stark evidence of the macroscale impacts – economic and societal – that come from the legacy of decades of broadband policymaking that has ignored the digital gender gap and left women and girls behind.
The project will start with an economic model that estimates the cost of excluding women from the digital economy and includes focus groups and interviews across low- and middle-income countries and mobile phone surveys in Nigeria and India on women’s internet use. A flagship report will be published this year, followed by two regional spotlight reports, focused on West Africa and South Asia respectively. Once these reports are published, A4AI and the Women’s Rights Online initiative will work together to share the findings and advocate for policy reform based on the research’s insights.
The economic impact of women is not simply measured in changes to a country’s gross domestic product. Missing, too, from the internet because of the digital gender gap are entire industries that more frequently employ women and have women as customers. How information and communication technologies could facilitate unpaid care work – again, roles typically taken up by women – will also be part of this study.
A4AI and the Web Foundation are excited to launch this important study. Closing the digital gender gap offers a paradigm for women’s economic empowerment. Even further, it promises a transformation of entire economies and the ways we work and live.