Gender inequality online is 'expensive for all of us,' says web inventor's foundation

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Tim Berners-Lee's Web Foundation hopes governments will be spurred to act upon seeing the economic cost of the digital gender divide.
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Crossing the Broadband Divide

When women and girls don't have access to the internet, it costs governments a lot of money. How much money, exactly, has only been estimated, until now.

New research released Monday by Tim Berners-Lee's Web Foundation and its subsidiary, Alliance for Affordable Internet, has calculated that over the past 10 years, 32 low- and middle-income countries have lost $1 trillion by not helping more women get online. Some of those countries include India, Nigeria and the Philippines.

The digital divide is a global problem, but there are still distinct groups that are less likely to have access to the internet. These groups can be defined by their geography, their gender, their race, or all three. Women in low- and middle-income countries are even less likely to have internet access than their male counterparts.

"This report reveals just how expensive gender inequality is for all of us," Boutheina Guermazi, director of digital development for the World Bank, said in a statement. "For governments looking to build a resilient economy as part of their COVID-19 recovery plans, closing the digital gender gap should be one of the top priorities."

In the 32 countries the Web Foundation looked at in its report, just over a third of women had access to the internet, compared with almost half of all men. And this divide doesn't seem to be closing over time, even as digital connectivity plays an increasingly central role in our lives. The coronavirus pandemic has shown how vital it is to have access to internet at home, for everything from remote school to health care. Over the past decade, the gap between the number of women and men online has dropped by only half a percentage point, the Web Foundation's research says.

The lack of internet access for women means many are excluded from education…
Katie Collins
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