There are currently 200 million fewer women online than men, and the gap could grow to 350 million within the next three years if action is not taken, according to a report released by the UN Broadband Commission Working Group on Broadband and Gender.
The report revealed that around the world, women are coming online later and more slowly than men. Of the world’s 2.8 billion internet users, 1.3 billion are women, compared with 1.5 billion men.
While the gap between male and female users is relatively small in OECD nations, it widens rapidly in the developing world, where expensive, ‘high status’ ICTs like computers are often reserved for use by men. In sub-Saharan Africa, for example, the report’s authors estimate that there are only half the number of women connected as men.
Worldwide, women are also on average 21 per cent less likely to own a mobile phone – representing a mobile gender gap of 300 million, equating to $13 billion in potential missed revenues for the mobile sector.
Report authors also believed that today’s untapped pool of female users could also represent a market opportunity for device makers, network operators, and software and app developers that might equal or even outstrip the impact of large emerging markets like China or India.
In developing countries, every 10 per cent increase in access to broadband translates to a 1.38 per cent growth in GDP. It means that bringing an additional 600 million women and girls online could boost global GDP by as much as $18 billion.The report also outlined the importance of encouraging more girls to pursue ICT careers. By 2015, it is estimated that 90 per cent of formal employment across all sectors will require ICT skills. Professionals with computer science degrees can expect to earn salaries similar to doctors or lawyers – yet even in developed economies, women now account for fewer than 20 per cent of ICT specialists.