Gender and the Digital Divide

Least developed countries around the world suffer digital divides in mobile connectivity. To add to this regional divide, gender inequality in the physical world is replicated in the digital world. There is a large gap in women and girls’ digital adoption and use compared to men and boys.

The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) reports that more than 50% of the world’s women are offline. This is more pronounced in developing countries, where the internet penetration rate for adult women is 41%, compared to 53% for men. GSMA found that 393 million adult women in developing countries do not own mobile phones, and globally, women are 8% less likely to own a mobile phone than men. This gender gap in digital access is accompanied by a gender gap in meaningful digital use. These disparities in usage limit women’s access to the full range of opportunities offered by digital.

In this edition of the newsletter, we focus on the state of the digital divide around the world, as well as the various aspects of women's lives the divide affects - such as education and gendered digital violence. We look at the causes and consequences of this divide, the varied benefits of bridging the gap, as well as international organisations actively working to reduce the gap.

As always, the newsletter contains job postings shared on our WhatsApp groups.

Happy Reading!

The Newsletter Team
Digital Divides Around the World
Connectivity in the Least Developed Countries: Status report 2021: This report assesses the level of digital connectivity in the 46 UN-designated Least Developed Countries (LDCs). It provides practical solutions to improve digital access, as well as concrete policy recommendations to help accelerate progress towards universal and meaningful connectivity. Read the report here.
Digital Economy Report 2019: The first edition of the Digital Economy Report – previously known as the Information Economy Report − examines the scope for value creation and capture in the digital economy by developing countries. It gives special attention to opportunities for these countries to take advantage of the data-driven economy as producers and innovators – but also to the constraints they face – notably with regard to digital data and digital platforms. Read the report here.
Digital Inclusion and Social Inequality: Gender Differences in ICT Access and Use in Five Developing Countries: This article explores gender differences in ICT provision in Bangladesh, Brazil, Chile, Ghana, and the Philippines, analyzing survey data with around 5,000 respondents who use public access ICT venues. In analyzing the gender differences the authors used the concept of digital inclusion—measured by various characteristics like skills, user attitude, and other related factors of two ICTs: computer and Internet. The findings further support, the argument, that the issue of digital inclusion needs to be seen in terms of the unique information needs of various socioeconomic groups and in specific social contexts. Read the article here.
What we know about the gender digital divide for girls: A literature review of gendered digital divide and what needs to be done to close the gap. Read the review here.
Monitoring global digital gender inequality using the online populations of Facebook and Google: The study highlights that women are significantly underrepresented in the online populations of Google and Facebook in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. These platform-specific gender gaps are a strong predictor that women lack internet access and basic digital skills in these populations.The study also shows how appropriate regression models built on novel, digital data from online populations can be used to complement traditional data sources to monitor global development indicators linked to digital gender inequality. Read the study here.

Digital Gender Divide in Learning/Education

Gender divide and acceptance of collaborative Web 2.0 applications for learning in higher education: The study investigated the role of computer anxiety in influencing female college students' perceptions toward Web 2.0 applications for learning.  The study concluded that overall females felt more anxious of using Web 2.0 applications than males. However, such difference was not found on social networking tools and online video sharing tools and, features of social networking and video sharing may promote females' Web 2.0 usage. Read the study here.
Digital Gender Divide in Online Education during Covid-19 Lockdown in India: This research showcases different aspects of digital gender divide issues spanning digital access, digital capability and digital outcomes. Findings reveals that girls in particular are much constrained in their learning space and provides a real-world perspective of gender biases that came to the forefront during the Covid-19 lockdown when educational institutions shifted their teaching to online mode. Read the article here.
The Gender Digital Divide: An Exploratory Research Of University Of Kashmir: The study analyzes the situation in University of Kashmir to answer some of the basic questions related to gender digital divide: Is it true that fewer women access and use internet? Are men more technology savvy than their female counterparts? Are men more aware about digital tools than women? Read the study here.
Examining Digital Divide From the Perspective of Rural School Teachers During COVID-19 Pandemic: This study aims to understand the challenges that rural teachers face about the digital divide and what are the ways they use to solve the problems about this issue. Therefore, sub questions have been formed to understand the main aim of this study as below: 1.Do teachers in rural schools think Turkey’s education politics enough to cover digital divide problem? 2.Do teachers in rural schools believe they get enough support from authorities about digital divide? .What kind of technological challenges do teachers in rural schools’ face? 4.What do teachers in rural schools personally do in order to solve digital divide issue in their schools? 5. What are the motivations of the teachers when facing with digital divide challenges? Read the study here.

Online Gender Based Discrimination/Digital Gendered Violence Digital

Women's Online Battles: Being Political Opens up Disproportionate Violence: The articles delves into experiences of women experiences heightened violence when engaging in political debates. The author emphaises on the issues and raises questions to create a safer environment for women online while expressing their political views and opinions. Read the article here.
From Online Political Posting to Mansplaining: The Gender Gap and Social Media in Political Discussion: The study found that more than half of the women say they have experienced mansplaining, especially those who are younger, well educated, and left-leaning. The authors argue a possibility of being mansplained affects who is willing to post their opinions online, and as such, caution should be exercised when using digital trace data to represent public opinion. Read the study here.
#NoSnowflakes: The toleration of harassment and an emergent gender-related digital divide, in a UK student online culture: Key findings indicate that online harassment is so pervasive in digitised spaces that it is often viewed as the ‘norm’ by the student population who appear willing to tolerate it, rather than take actions to address it, which challenges pejorative claims that they are intolerant and easily offended ‘snowflakes’. Respondents who identify as female and transgender are more likely to be targeted by online harassment. The author point out that the label ‘snowflake generation’ is diverting attention away from student’s everyday experiences of online harassment and its adverse effects, particularly on women and transgendered people, which has the potential to create a gender-related digital divide. Read the report here.

International Organisations/Initiatives Working to Reduce Gaps

International Girls in ICT Day: Through International Girls in ICT Day, the International Telecom Union (ITU) works with partners build awareness about the gender digital divide, support technology education and skills training, and encourage more girls and young women to actively pursue careers in STEM.
Women in Cybersecurity: The International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the Forum of Incident Response and Security Teams (FIRST) and EQUALS​, the global partnership for gender equality in the digital age of which ITU is a co-founder, jointly organize the Women in Cyber Mentorship Programme for empowering women in the cybersecurity sector. The programme engages role models and leaders in this field, and connects them with talented women worldwide.
CISCO EQUALS Learning Space: The EQUALS Global Partnership for Gender Equality in the Digital Age is a committed group of corporate leaders, governments, businesses, not-for-profit organizations, academic institutions, NGOs and community groups around the world dedicated to promoting gender balance in the technology sector by championing equality of access, skills development and career opportunities for women and men alike.

View previous editions of the newsletter on our website

Causes and Consequences of the Digital Gender Divide

A Tough Call: Understanding Barriers to and Impacts of Women’s Mobile Phone Adoption in India: South Asian countries in general are clear outliers among countries of similar levels of development, with India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh exhibiting some of the world’s highest gender gaps in access to technology. While the mobile gender gap matters in its own right, it is particularly problematic because it can exacerbate other important forms of inequality — in earnings, networking opportunities, and access to information. This report uses a range of sources — 125 original qualitative interviews, a literature review, and analysis of secondary quantitative data — to identify leading barriers to Indian women’s use of mobile phones, assess the importance of these barriers, and propose directions for further research into how to reduce them. Read the report here.
Negotiating Women’s Agency through ICTs: A Comparative Study of Uganda and India: In many cases women decide the extent to which they will adopt a particular technology on the basis of how they think it will affect the gender equilibrium. Based on fieldwork on the use of mobile phones by female street traders in urban Uganda and an IT center and community radio in rural India, the authors ask: How strategically do women in developing countries negotiate agency through ICTs? Through these two case studies, they apply two concepts of agency, namely, “adaptive preference” and “patriarchal bargain” to understand how women decide to adopt ICTs. Empowerment through ICTs is not unproblematic, nor is it impossible; it is, however, illustrative of contextual, situated agency. Read the paper here.
The Gender Digital Divide in Developing Countries: Empirical studies clearly show that women in the developing world have significantly lower technology participation rates than men; a result of entrenched socio-cultural attitudes about the role of women in society. However, as studies are beginning to show, when those women are able to engage with Internet technology, a wide range of personal, family and community benefits become possible. The key to these benefits is on-line education, the access to which sets up a positive feedback loop. This review gives an overview of the digital divide, before focusing specifically on the challenges women in developing countries face in accessing the Internet. The report also looks at the potential opportunities for women’s participation in a global digital society along with a consideration of current initiatives that have been developed to mitigate gender inequity in developing countries. Read the report here.
Digital Divide and Stability of Access in African American Women Visiting Urban Public Health Centers: "I don’t like earphones. When you are using them, people will laugh at you at home. Because at home these are only used by boys and not by girls. (Zomba-13-F)"

This article examines the complex relationship between gender and ICTs from the perspective of low literate youth in Ethiopia and Malawi, based on a wider inquiry into the role of ICTs in their lives. It discusses the constraints that women experience in accessing and using ICTs, such as domestic responsibilities, time, mobility, and sociocultural norms. Subsequently, the article explores the gender disparity resulting from these constraints in terms of knowledge about, use of, and ownership of ICTs, as well as differences in the way men and women use ICTs. In doing so, the article argues that gendering in daily life shapes the gendering of ICT use, and therefore, that the gender digital divide is fundamentally socially constructed by a complex web of interrelated factors, making it difficult to tease out which factor is responsible for what effect. Read the article here.

Digital Divide and Stability of Access in African American Women Visiting Urban Public Health Centers: This exploratory study examines access to communication technologies, its association with health-related variables and study attrition, and its stability over time in a study of lower income African American women visiting urban public health centers. Fewer than 10% of women reported e-mail access; 26% reported cell/phone pager access. At 6-month follow up, 45% of e-mail accounts were inactive; accounts from pay access providers were more likely to be inactive than work- or school-based accounts (58% versus 25%). Cell phone/pager access was positively associated with mammography knowledge. Attrition rates were lower among women with access than among those without access. Read the article here.
The Role of Mobile Phones among Latina Farm Workers in Southeast Ohio: This article presents a case of the gender digital divide in the use of mobile phones in a small community of Latino immigrant farm workers in Southeast Ohio in the US. Contrary to the findings of previous studies that rural women around the world are using information and communication technologies (ICTs) for empowerment, this research reveals that immigration status interacts with gender and class identities such that Latina immigrant women who work in horticulture nurseries face limits of access, use, and distribution of knowledge for their own purposes and needs. The findings suggest that mobile phones are not inherently empowering to women, and under specific circumstances such as undocumented migration, they can serve as a device that strengthens hierarchical power relations between women and men. Read the article here.
Exploring gender digital divide and its effect on women's labour market outcomes in South Africa: This paper investigates gender differential in broadband Internet usage and its effects on women‘s labour market participation. Employing an instrumental variable approach, findings suggest that exogenously determined high-speed broadband internet usage leads to increases of about 14.1 and 10.6 percentage points in labour market participation for single women and married women with some level of education, respectively. Moreover, further analyses suggest that married women are generally less likely to use the Internet to search for job opportunities and this could partly explains their low labour market participation rate. Read the paper here.

How to bridge the gap, and why it can be beneficial

Designing Gender Inclusion: The gender-based digital divide and how design can change it: This thesis explores the gender-based digital divide and suggests strategies to reduce the inequality in information and communications technology (ICT) from the perspective of design. Read the paper here.
Can mobile phones improve gender equality and nutrition? Panel data evidence from farm households in Uganda: Panel data from rural Uganda used to analyze social welfare effects of mobile phones. Mobile phone use is associated with positive increases in household income, gender equality, and food security. Positive nutrition effects occur primarily through income and gender equality pathways. Female mobile phone use has stronger positive effects than male mobile phone use. Equal access to mobile phones can foster economic and broader social development. Read the study here.
Can Mobile Phones Improve Learning? Evidence from a Field Experiment in Niger: The returns to educational investments hinge on whether such investments can improve the quality and persistence of educational gains. The authors report the results from a randomized evaluation of an adult education program in Niger, in which some students learned how to use simple mobile phones (Project ABC). Students in ABC villages achieved test scores that were 0.19-0.26 standard deviations higher than those in standard adult education classes, and standardized math test scores remained higher seven months after the end of classes. These results suggest that simple information technology can be harnessed to improve educational outcomes among rural populations. Read the paper here.
Integrating group counseling, cell phone messaging, and participant-generated songs and dramas into a microcredit program increases Nigerian women's adherence to international breastfeeding recommendations: The authors conducted a cluster-randomized controlled trial in Bauchi State, Nigeria, with the aim of increasing early breastfeeding initiation and exclusive breastfeeding among female microcredit clients. The intervention had 3 components. Trained credit officers led monthly breastfeeding learning sessions during regularly scheduled microcredit meetings, text and voice messages were sent out weekly to a cell phone provided to small groups of microcredit clients, and small groups prepared songs or dramas about the messages and presented them at the monthly microcredit meetings. They found that the breastfeeding promotion intervention integrated into microcredit increased the likelihood that women adopted recommended breastfeeding practices. Read the paper here.
Featured photographs are from

Jobs and Internship Openings

Note: These are jobs shared by members over WhatsApp over the last 2 weeks. Please check if positions are still open before applying. If you are thinking about applying to one of these, you can also drop a message on the WhatsApp group or on the google group  to connect with members currently working in these organisations.
1. Job Openings:
  1. Multiple positions are open at OneFuture Collective (remote)
  2.  Program Managar, IMAGO Global Grassroots (Delhi, India)
  3. Senior Program Associate- Just Transition (Energy & Climate Change Programme)
  4. Research Associate (to work on multiple projects with Chinmaya Kumar, M. R. Sharan, and Aaditya Dar) (Bihar, India)
  5. Research Associate – Direct Benefit Transfers for Electricity in Punjab - J-PAL South Asia (India)
  6. Research Associate - Payments and Governance Research Program - J-PAL South Asia (India)
  7. Research Assistant - Oxford Policy Management (Delhi/Patna, India)
2.  Internships:
  1. Program Support Intern - International Collaborations Unit, Pratham (remote position)
  2. Internship- Household Finance Dvara Research (remote position)
  3. Winter Internship Program - Good Business Lab (remote position)
This newsletter was put together by Sugandha, Ria, Vasanthi, Sharvari, Ridhima, and Prerna
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