ITU report on global digital connectivity finds gender digital gap is growing

Image from ITU

The International Telecommunications Union (ITU), the UN specialized agency for ICTs, has released Measuring digital development: Facts and figures 2019 , a new report offering a snapshot of the state of digital connectivity around the world. The report found that even though Internet use is spreading globally, in some regions the gender digital divide is growing. 

An estimated 4.1 billion people – or just over 53% of the global population – are currently online. This represents a 5.3% increase since 2018. A staggering 3.6 billion people, however, remain unconnected from the Internet – despite 96% of the global population living within reach of a mobile signal. Most of the world’s unconnected people reside in Least Developed Countries, where 80% of the population is offline.

Women are lagging behind men in making use of the Internet in almost two thirds of countries worldwide. Overall, the proportion of all women using the Internet globally is 48%, compared with 58% of all men. More men than women use the Internet in every region of the world except in the Americas, where the gender gap continues to hover around 0. In Africa, the Arab States and Asia-Pacific, meanwhile, the digital gender gap is starting to grow.

The report points to issues such as affordability, a lack of digital skills and meaningful content, and cultural considerations as important barriers to Internet use. Doreen Bogdan-Martin, Director of ITU’s Telecommunication Development Bureau said: “Even where connectivity exists, we need to be more creative in addressing critical issues like affordability of service, cost of handsets, and lack of digital skills and literacy to enable more people – and especially women – to participate and flourish in the digital economy.”

Sources: ITU News, Measuring digital development: Facts and figures 2019