Poor women don’t have access to the internet

Too many women are being excluded from the technological revolution. The UN estimates that some 200 million more men have access to the internet than women and this chasm is especially wide in developing countries. It’s vital that this industrial revolution doesn’t entrench gender divides.

The digital exclusion of women is primarily a product of social inequalities. In many global south countries, women occupy traditional roles in the home or in the primary production sector, such as farming. According to the UN’s report, The World’s Women 2015, women are more likely than men to be unemployed or to work in the home or smallholding, which usually implies that they have little or no monetary income. In Oceania, sub-Saharan Africa and southern Asia, between 30 and 55% of employed women are contributing family workers, about 20% higher than men in the same regions. With many women beginning these roles in their childhood years, their access to digital technology is limited early on and often never recovers.

Hmm, OK. maybe we’d better do something about that?

Like, I dunno, get some people to build some more towers? Licence a bit more spectrum to make it cheaper? Get the factories churning out landfill Android? Go with the Facebook idea of a bit of free access?

There’s sure a number of things that can be done. But that’s not quite what is suggested:

The WEF claims gender parity is one of its key global issues and the subject will be discussed as this year’s forum, albeit as a side issue.

But a group that is so male and so western needs to be more representative if it is to fulfil its remit as the “World” Economic Forum. No less than 65% of nearly 3,000 delegates at Davos last year were from North America and western Europe, versus just 4% from Africa. So listening to more voices from the developing world – especially female ones – and allowing them to participate would be a good place to start.

No, apparently the solution is that more birds from Africa could go to a Swiss mountain resort for a gabfest. That’ll do it!

Henrietta Moore
Professor Henrietta Moore is director, UCL Institute for Global Prosperity

And people wonder why the academic discipline of studying development isn’t taken all that seriously.

19 thoughts on “Poor women don’t have access to the internet”

  1. Hang on.

    n many global south countries, women occupy traditional roles in the home or in the primary production sector, such as farming.

    So, these cultures force women to slave in the fields while the men loaf about under a tree. Okay, with you so far.

    No less than 65% of nearly 3,000 delegates at Davos last year were from North America and western Europe, versus just 4% from Africa.

    Well, yes. That’s because that 4% represents cultures where the women slave in the fields while the men loaf about under a tree. By your own admission.

    So listening to more voices from the developing world – especially female ones – and allowing them to participate would be a good place to start.

    That’s a good plan, but what if the delegates turn out to be the men who loaf about under a tree and who like things just as they are, or wives/sisters/daughters of the elite who know about about as much about the plight of their less fortunate sistas as Kanye West does? Is the patriarchy in sub-Saharan African shitholes really going to allow peasant women onto the list of delegates at Davos?

    The worst thing is this woman will now damned well what the problem is, but there is not a comfortable and rewarding career in stating it.

  2. I rather think that if my ménage were to have been located in a “global south country” (is this the acceptable way of saying Bongo Bong land?), I’d have Mrs Bison pounding millet while I drank beer and surfed the internet.

    Instead of which I’m 24/7 tech support for her various devices.

  3. Just like that Oxfam report from the other day, which would have the effect of giving more money to Third World kleptocrats and Western quangocrats while doing nothing for any actual poor people.

  4. Bloke in North Dorset

    “SJW MELTDOWN!!! Nowhere for their censorious outrage for 30 MINUTES!”

    Their withdrawal symptoms didn’t last long ….

    “Some users took to Facebook to complain.”

  5. There are things in this world where you can look at where we’re at and where we’re going and whether things need a push, and really, we don’t with internet. I spoke to a guy who works with cellphone companies in Africa (he optimises their websites for the lower bandwidth) and he said that there’s like half a dozen internet cafes in Kigali. Not great speeds, sometimes a bit unreliable, but it’s not terrible.

    Ted S,
    That Oxfam ad should end with the word “Neoliberalism” and maybe a photo of Milton Friedman. How dare Oxfam try to claim that people like them are the driving force that has lifted a billion people out of poverty when most of them have been in countries like China and India, and nearly all of that is the result of those countries throwing out the economics of Mao and Gandhi.

  6. Aren’t there large numbers of Muslim women in the UK who don’t have internet access? Hows about tackling that?

  7. ‘So listening to more voices from the developing world – especially female ones – and allowing them to participate would be a good place to start.’

    Coz, you see, you should get your economic advise from people who can’t get the internet.

  8. So we don’t like the social structure of “global south” societies as they are not equal.
    Clearly someone has to go in and re-educate these societies, in the name of equality.
    How do we persuade anyone to take on this onerous task? What will the reward be?
    The eternal thanks of the people? From experience that won’t be forthcoming- absolutely no-one likes being told how to live.
    I know! Let’s allow the teachers to run businesses in these countries and keep the profits.
    So we go back to bearing the white man’s burden, and “exploiting” the natives by giving them jobs.
    I’m sure it’ll work this time.

  9. “which usually implies that they have little or no monetary income.”

    Somehow I can’t escape the feeling that, all things considered, when scraping for a living ( under circumstances that may or may not include random outbreaks of violence, corruption, and other bobs and bits that put a damper on “the Peaceful Life”) your interest in a thing called “the Internet” may well not be anywhere near the top of your list of priorities.
    Especially when there’s a very decent chance you cannot even read, or understand any of the five most used languages/alphabets it’s made up of.

    On the other hand, the suggestion of “Just give them Internet” most definitely has a “Let them eat Cake” quality to it.

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