Photo: Anna Karefelt/Sida
Impact of women’s digital rights
Statistics from the Sida supported programme Women’s Rights Online shows that women are less digitally active than men and use the internet to a lesser degree to make their voices heard. Through different tools, the programme works to impact governments and global actors to follow up and empower women’s digital competence, participation and rights.
Relatively speaking, connectivity is expensive in many of the world’s poorer countries. For example, in Africa, 1 GB costs 18% of the average monthly salary. And those who use the internet are primarily men. According to studies that the Web Foundation organisation conducted in ten cities within the framework of the Sida funded programme Women’s Rights Online (WRO), in a poor urban environment it is half as likely for a woman as a man to use the internet - even if both of them own a mobile phone. Moreover, women use the internet to a significantly lesser degree to strengthen their own political and economic strength. Ignorance on how to use the internet is one of the most common reasons why women, particularly those with a low level of education, are not connected to the same degree as men.
“In addition to the high cost of sending data, many women report that they lack digital competence. A third barrier is that they do not see the point in using their minimal free time to go online. Moreover, there is the problem of online threats and harassment that especially reduces younger women to silence,” says Ingrid Brudvig, who leads Women’s Rights Online at the Web Foundation.
According to their studies, 70% of women between the ages of 18 and 24 in the partner countries have experienced threats on the net.
Web Foundation means that political action is needed to bridge the digital differences between men and women, otherwise, the internet risks strengthening existing gender-based inequalities.
Advocacy activities for global intermediate goals
Through WRO, the Web Foundation conducts advocacy activities, for gender and ICT, at the national, regional and global levels. An important step has been the development of information and data to use as a basis for raising the issue in different forums.
“As the importance of access to and use of ICT is increasing, the need to collect gender-disaggregated data on how women use the internet is also increasing. Otherwise, it is impossible to work for and measure progress in the area. Through the Global goals governments have taken on the task of increasing access to gender sensitive statistics,” says Ingrid Brudvig.
There are two Global goals targets that affect women’s online rights and participation (5b and 9c - see box). All Global goals have indicators on how they can be followed up, but Web Foundation has further increased the details and developed these tools, among which is their Digital Gender Gap Audit that clearly shows how a number of areas that are linked to women’s access to, and use of, the internet can be followed up.
Strategies for working with gender and ICT
Nationally, Women’s Rights Online aims to convince governments to work for political reforms that improve internet access and women’s digital participation. Through a network of collaborative organisations from ten different countries, Web Foundation develops case studies, surveys and statistics that are then used to highlight issues surrounding gender and IT on a global level.
Web Foundation’s five-step strategy, REACT, that is based on rights, access, education, content and targets, is used to show how governments, the private sector and international organisations such as the World Bank, the African Union and the UN can act to empower women’s voices and representation on the web. WRO also sits on the ITU Broadband Commission that is the UN’s specialised organ for ICT. Last year, the Web Foundation received the ITU/UN Women Gem Tech Award for, among other things, work with developing gender sensitive guidelines for ICT (Information and Communication Technology).
Johan Hellström, who works with digital development at Sida, says that in general ICT is a catalyst for attaining Global goals, but that it is also an area that is especially important to highlight and strengthen, in relation to girls’ and women’s rights.
“Even if we have few targeted projects nowadays, it is an aspect that we look at with all new support,” says Johan Hellström.