India needs to double down on bridging its digital gender gap

Source– The post is based on the article “India needs to double down on bridging its digital gender gap” published in the mint on 6th March 2023.

Syllabus: GS1- Social empowerment. GS2- Vulnerable sections of the population

Relevance: Issues related to women empowerment

News- The article deals with the issue of digital access for women empowerment

What is the status of digital disparity between men and women in India?

According to a Unicef report, as many as 90% of the jobs in the world today have a digitalcomponent. These jobs are available only to the digitally able, and to more men than women.

According to the report, in developing countries, only 41% of women have access to the internet compared with 53% of men. Women are 20% less likely to own a smartphone and are more likely to borrow phones from a male family member.

The report also says that boys are 1.5 times more likely to own a mobile phone, and 1.8 times more likely to own a smartphone than girls.

Another report by the OECD revealed that the gender gap in internet use is widening. Software development remains a male-dominated field. Women comprise only 15% of software designers.

Data on the use of the internet in India indicates that in comparison with 58% male internet users, female users are only 42%.

Girls and women are denied access to digital technologies because they almost always come second in a patriarchal social order. The internet is seen as a ‘risk to the traditional social order’ and ‘male gatekeepers’ restrict or control girls’ and women’s access to the internet.

How Covid19 shows the importance of digital access?

Covid has demonstrated the seminal importance of digital tools in today’s world. Children struggled to keep up with their studies using the limited smartphones and computers.

UNESCO estimated that around 168 million girls enrolled in pre-primary to tertiary levels of education were affected.

What is the importance of digital inclusion?

Leaving women out of the digital world would amount to denying them basic skills for survival.

India aims to have a $1 trillion digital economy by 2025. Already, 40% of global digitaltransactions take place in India. As economies digitise further, most jobs will require someknowledge of digital technology.

In India, front-line workers are using tablets and smartphones. Public schemes such as the PM Janani Suraksha Yojana require beneficiaries to provide their bank account details. Social and financial inclusion will necessitate digital inclusion.

There are vast opportunities for girls and women to power India’s digital economy and benefit from it. Access to digital technology for a young woman can be a game changer with multiplier effects.

Digital literacy for women is a necessity if India wants to achieve the ultimate goal of genderequality. Prime Minister Narendra Modi emphasised the need for ‘women-led development’ as India took over the G20 presidency.

What is the way forward for bridging the gender gap in digital space?

Leveraging India’s demographic dividend requires an equal emphasis on the country’s gender dividend.

It will require smart interventions specially designed for girls and women in health, education, employment, banking, skilling and transportation.

A favourable policy environment to promote the digital empowerment of women is a step in the right direction.

Print Friendly and PDF