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Why Are Few Women Online?

We look into the digital gender gap.

BY Agnes Amondi

Mar 15, 2023, 07:25 AM

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As the world marked International Women’s Day on March 8, the promise that came out of it was that different entities will continue working around the clock to ensure that women and girls have equal access to the internet. 

According to Kenya‘s Digital Economy: A People’s Perspective report published in 2021, only 35% of women compared to 54% of men use digital services.

Another report published in 2019 titled the Groupe Speciale Mobile Association (GSMA) showed that women are less likely to access the internet and own a smartphone. 

As of January 2023, statistics from DataReportal show that out of the total number of internet users in the country - 23.35 million - only 44.3 per cent are women while men made up 55.7 per cent.

Globally, the UN reports that 3.7 billion people worldwide are not online with more than half of those being women. Why is this?

Lack of Access.

Even as women make their way into the workplace, they are still lagging behind in the workforce. When they go into the workforce, most of them take up jobs in the informal sector that might not necessarily give them access to the internet. For example, doing care work and home-based work might not necessarily expose them to the internet.

Is The Internet A 'Boys Club?'

Some of the notions perpetuated over time, like technology being a boys' and men’s thing has certainly not helped the course. Growing up, men are expected to learn about machines and gadgets while girls are expected to focus on house chores and other things, one of which is not technology. 

In adulthood, men are expected to know how to plumb, fix a bulb and a flat tyre and generally handle technology. The same is not expected of women. In fact, if you know how to do all these, you are considered an exception.

All of this affects how girls view technology. It appears complex and something that only a man can figure out. As such, it inhibits their desire to want to use and get into technology.

More Women Face Harassment Online Than Men.

According to an Africa Development Bank report, women are 27 times more likely to face online harassment than men. This means that they have a harder time using the internet than men. When they are online, they are forced to remain silent and not participate in online spheres freely. 

One of the fiercest online groups is Kenyans On Twitter or the infamous KOT. This lot has successfully hounded several people out of social media platforms among them female leaders. A few weeks ago, Senator Gloria Orwoba revealed that she wanted to quit Twitter after she was attacked for speaking up about menstruation.

Such acts of vicious violence where women are mobbed or trending tags are created around their names to scare them off further widen the digital gender gap.

Low-Income Levels Is Also A Contributing Factor.

Women receive less pay than men. That in itself is a persistent problem and even as the world slowly addresses it, it is having a wide-ranging impact on girls and women. They cannot afford proper gadgets that can access the internet which only means that they aren’t just excluded from this resource, but they also miss out on many other opportunities that the internet presents.

According to the 2020 Internet Poverty Index, 36.9 per cent of women in Kenya cannot foot the cost of having internet compared to 34.1 per cent of men.

Lack Of Literacy And Digital Skills.

 The fact that more men - 54% than women, 35% use digital services demonstrates the gap there is in acquiring more skills that will make women internet savvy and hence unlock a lot of opportunities. During the COVID-19 pandemic, a lot of manual jobs were replaced by digital jobs as a way of minimizing human contact. 

In a post-COVID world, the reliance on technology has only gone up which means that women have to learn these skills as soon as possible if they are to be competitive in the job market and in other areas of life.