Over just two decades, the Internet has worked a thorough revolution. Never before has information been so widely available, business more efficient and available, or people better connected to each other. The Internet and computers can be great equalizers. And yet, access to it is not equally distributed. The Internet gender gap is especially visible in developing countries, with very real consequences for women and girls, their communities, and their nations.
Although this is widely acknowledged, women are not yet fully getting the rewards of Internet access. Establishing a deeper and broader understanding of women’s participation in the digital revolution is an important step in bringing about change. But, as this gap between men and women is still big, women have managed to reclaim computers and the internet from men in some categories. One of these categories is online bingo games, which gained immense popularity among women and keep on attracting thousands of female consumers on a daily basis. A recent study showed that 46 percent of online gamers are women, which especially goes for online bingo games. The rising power of women and mothers within the online gaming sector is becoming more and more transparent. With women still being the weaker gender when computers are concerned, the fact that so many women worldwide are playing online games, shows that they are on their way to participate equally and take over the computer and internet world from men.
The benefits of using internet by women are numerous. Internet access enhances women’s economic empowerment, political participation and social inclusion through initiatives that support increased productivity and income generation, mobilization and accountability. Multiple pathways to empowerment exist, including the development of social movements, expression of voice and agency, and exposure to information, knowledge and new ideas—all of which are central to creating gender-responsive, adaptive, and innovative societies.
On average across the developing world, nearly 25 percent fewer women than men have access to the Internet, and the gender gap soars to nearly 45 percent in regions like sub-Saharan Africa. Even in rapidly growing economies the gap is still huge. Nearly 35 percent fewer women than men in South Asia, the Middle East and North Africa have Internet access and nearly 30 percent in parts of Europe and across Central Asia. In most higher-income countries, a situation is a bit different. Women’s Internet access only minimally lags that of men’s, and in countries such as France and the United States, in fact exceeds it. It’s the matter of time when women will take over computers and internet from men and become active participants in developing as well as other countries around the world.
Bridging the Internet gender gap represents an opportunity of great proportions. Internet access is fast becoming an indispensable entrée to a hyper-connected world. Internet access and usage:
- Boosts women’s income and income potential
Across surveyed countries, nearly half of respondents used the web to search for and apply for a job, and 30 percent had used the Internet to earn additional income.
- Increases women’s sense of empowerment
More than 70 percent of Internet users considered the Internet “liberating” and 85 percent said it “provides more freedom.”
- Increases women’s sense of equity
While the international community is split over whether access to the Internet is a human right in itself, nearly 90 percent of women Internet users surveyed said it should be.
A dedicated global effort to address the Internet gender gap could double the number of women online within three years. Although access to the Internet is spreading rapidly in developing countries, women are nearly 25 percent less likely than men to be online. This gender gap, which today prevents a staggering 200 million women from participating online, is projected to perpetuate. A dedicated and coordinated effort by public and private sector actors is urgently needed to accelerate the pace of progress in bridging this gap. Without any concerted action, 450 million new female Internet users are projected to come online in the next three years, simply as a result of organic growth in Internet penetration.