06 Aug Is Digitization And Internet Usage Creating A New Gender Gap?
The new digital reports published by We Are Social and Hootsuite suggests how digital, mobile, and social media have become an integral part of our lives. It states that more than 4.5 billion people now use the internet, more than 3.8 billion people are active on social media, and nearly 60 percent of the world’s population is already online. By the way, this report was published before the pandemic. We are sure these stats have increased during the outbreak as the internet has become a new need during and after the lockdown.
But a shocking thing in this report was, more than 31 percent of ‘unconnected’ (people not using the internet) people are from regions like India, China and Africa, and the majority of them are women. Data says “Women in Southern Asia are three times less on social media than men”, (of course population can be the reason along with illiteracy ratio).
Research by GSMA published in 2020 shows that more than half of the total women living in India are unaware of the existence of mobile internet. And our curiosity from here started. Why this gender gap? And will this gender gap become a problem in the future? Let’s find out!
The Whys And Wherefores
– Literacy and Skills
It is no hidden fact that India has a low literacy rate, and obviously, women fare poorly in this list. Because a majority of us still believe that women should be confined to their traditional gender roles, namely cooking and taking care of the family. As women, we are also not aware of the power that the internet and literacy give us.
– Money Can Be A Matter
A major issue in South Asia is also buying a smartphone. For a woman who has a minimum income or none, it is an expensive and unnecessary expense. An average cost of a smartphone can be up to 16% of the annual income(report by UNICEF) of the under poverty line women.
– Safety And Security
Women and their families think about safety, risk and security of using smartphones. The internet being a medium where things can easily go viral, the security of any gender is a must. Women and their families don’t feel safe online and have a fear of security.
– Perceived Sense Of Relevance
Women using a phone is still not considered relevant. This barrier is seen more in rural India. A report by UNICEF suggested that, in Rajasthan, girls were not allowed to use a mobile phone and social media, and a village in UP banned unmarried girls from using the phone and also from wearing jeans(really?). Awareness of relevance is highly needed in our country. Another barrier in relevance is the language barrier, English is not understood by everyone in the country and not all languages are available on the internet and phone.
Importance Of Reducing The Gender Gap
An era of digital sexism is upon us due to the problems mentioned above. Women need to have access to the internet and smartphone as it can help them in many ways, like:
1. Getting awareness about the world
The news and updates about the world are just a tap away. It will help women in growing their business online and to make the correct decisions by giving relevant information about their business and surroundings. Digital technologies will also help them in getting access to healthcare, banking, and other essential services from home.
2. Seeking Help
There are many things like sex education and health problems which we as women don’t wish to share or talk about, but the internet can help us. It can answer our questions regarding health issues, mental issues, can give us tips and ideas for business, can teach us any language or profession, etc. It is one of the ways of improving and making society more progressive.
3. Smartphones make people smarter
When you are aware of the problem and solution, it gives you a superior position in the situation. Women tend to discuss and take suggestions from relatives and friends before buying or selling something. But with the internet, they can research and know about the product themselves.
A Little To Worry
Being part of an advertising agency that goes with the post-COVID digital trend, it is a worrying thing for all of us, as we are missing on the big amount of target audiences because they don’t use the internet. We are wasting our money on targeting the same group and the same people. But the good news is the awareness rate is increasing with time.
The Way Forward
Digitalization is a big advantage for the current generation. It has the potential to build and grow companies and nations. Through the following plans, we can spread awareness among women of the nation.
- We can plan campaigns and awareness programs around digital safety and usage for women.
- We can work on addressing the positive and negative influence of the internet.
- There should be government policies or Yojanas to encourage women to use smartphones.
- Special women usage internet schemes.
With growing awareness, there will be more skilled internet workers and jobs which will boost the digital economy and ultimately have a positive impact on the nation’s economy. This makes Digital equality a must for the growth of the digital economy, and reducing the digital gender gap becomes a need of the time.