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Reflections of a Digital Divide

Representations of gender, diversity, and device use in mobile network marketing.

Reflections of a Digital Divide summarizes an investigation into gender and diversity representations on the front pages of mobile network operator websites around the world, as well as their impact on the digital gender gap.

Women’s representations on these websites provide an example of hope – where gender discrimination does not prevent women from using ICTs – but there are other shortcomings, particularly across regions and intersections of ethnicity, age, and ability.

Mobile internet marketing can influence the digital gender gap.

This report speaks to one example of a broader range of possibilities to address social norms that reinforce the digital gender gap. Social norms act as communally-held expectations and practices that relate to the behaviours of a society’s members: for example, should women own and use ICTs and what is appropriate use.

As all stakeholders work together to respond to the digital gender gap, marketing representations offer a medium for action by mobile network operators and other companies in the ICT sector to challenge norms that say that a person’s gender influences or determines their ability to use these technologies for their benefit.

Marketing and its representations form part of a comprehensive programme to R.E.A.C.T. towards gender equality in the digital world.

The research illustrates a way forward in closing the digital gender gap and the roles and responsibilities across the ICT sector in doing so. The marketing representations of gender and diversity in relation to mobile use offer a specific point of intervention in influencing social norms. It shows that all stakeholders – governments, private companies, and civil society alike – each hold capacity to influence the way that gender norms around technology are built, maintained, or transformed.

Suggested citation: Laghaei, M., Meltzer, J., and Ondili, M. (2021). ‘Reflections of a digital divide: Representations of gender, diversity, and device use in mobile network marketing.’ A4AI Discussion Paper Series 1:1. Alliance for Affordable Internet.