Women in Uganda use the Internet far less than men according to a new survey from the World Wide Web Foundation which found that 27% of men in the country are online, compared with just 19% of women.
Uganda had by far the largest gender gap in internet access among four countries included in the survey of women’s online experiences. In Ghana, which also featured in the study, men were just 6% more likely to be online than women, compared with 43% in Uganda. Total internet use in Uganda remains low at 23% of the population, while Ghana has reached 30%.
The exclusion of women from the digital society is a huge threat to progress on gender equality and denies women opportunities to improve their lives, the report warns:
“The internet is one of the most empowering technologies the world has ever seen, but unless women are equally able to benefit from it, the gender divide risks driving further inequality.”
Several barriers keep people offline in Uganda, including the cost of mobile data, the lack of a suitable device, and a lack of skills needed to use the internet. 46% of women said they don’t use the internet because they don’t know-how, compared with 40% of men.
The report calls for governments to commit to tackling the digital gender divide and invest in policies that support women to use digital technologies.
“The digital gender divide isn’t a women’s problem, it’s everyone’s problem. The exclusion of women online threatens all of our prosperity, opportunity and wellbeing,” says Chenai Chair, Web Foundation Research Manager for Gender and Digital Rights.
“If Uganda is to build a vibrant digital economy where everyone can contribute, it should invest in making sure women can use the internet effectively as a top priority. The good news is the communications regulator has recognised digital inequality as a problem and is engaging with civil society to tackle it.”
The Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) continues to work and engage with Civil Society Organisations such as the Women of Uganda Network (WOUGNET) and the Web Foundation’s Women’s Rights Online network to better integrate gender into its digital policies.
Through this collaboration, government policymakers are helping to transform their agencies’ approach to gender and deliver policies that are designed to meet the specific needs that women have online.
When women are online, they are less likely than men to post comments about political, social and economic issues and less likely to sell or advertise products online. Policymakers must go beyond closing the gap in internet access and help to ensure women and girls can fully participate online, including by creating content and sharing their ideas and experiences.
Full participation in the digital world is important not only for individual rights and empowerment but also as a driver of economic growth and prosperity. By closing the digital divide, according to the report, governments can help bolster economic growth:
“Inclusive economies are stronger economies, and inclusive digital development will be critical as countries look to bounce back from the COVID-19 crisis.”
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