Smartphones can narrow digital gender gap

Access to internet should be integral part of human right. And to make it possible, the spreading of mobile internet through Smartphone is the need of hour.

Earlier these slogans were meant for technological development in general but now these calls would be for mitigating global digital gender gap as well.

Digital gender gap refers to the difference in numbers between internet access for men and women. Various global surveys have revealed substantial digital gender gaps in most of the 144 developing nations. And adding salt to the injury, conservative attitudes in some of these nations are sometimes making things more difficult for women.

Recently the audience at the Public Relation Society of India organised conference on digital world were stunned of what they had heard from Paroma Roy Chowdhury.

Paroma, Country Head, Corporate Communications  and Public Affairs at Google India was merely narrating her own experiences in recent drive for mitigating digital gender gap, which took her to all corners of India.

To her utter dismay she found out that some villages barely beyond hundred kilometres from Delhi, local girls and women had been barred to use computers. Visiting neighbourhood cyber café is strictly ruled out as well.

Gayatri Buragohain, who spearheaded New Delhi based NGO, Feminist Approach to Technology, was of opinion that conservative society would not like to see any role for women beyond the boundary of the house.  

A 2012 global survey on global digital gender gap revealed that out of seven billion population, 2.4 billion would have the internet access. Almost half of it is in Asia. In the 144 nation strong developing world there are 1.4 billion users, out of which six hundred million could be girls and women. Some experts are even sceptical of this figure of 600 million, terming it as overestimation.

Now global mission is to take that six hundred million to 1.2 billion at the end of 2014. In other words another six hundred million girls and women would be hopefully added in that list.

Mobile broadband is emerging as one of the key weapons to mitigate the said gap. The experts would point out to the dual facts to justify this argument. No only mobile handset is considered personal even in conservative society (computer is thought to be household property with male members generally having priority in accessing internet through it) but internet embedded smartphone is now poised to reign. With smartphone, without crossing the home boundary girls could get themselves well versed with contemporary state-of-art.

Estonia, Finland and France have included access to internet as one of the basic human rights. With fastest mobile internet growth, the developing world should embrace this model to enjoy the fruits of technological leapfrogging.

The author is a senior journalist specialised in technology. All the views and opinions expressed in the article are solely his and not of Times of Oman.


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