The Global System for Mobile Communications (GSMA) released its 2019 Gender Gap Mobile Report which hinges on 20 000 face-to-face surveys commissioned by GSMA Intelligence across 18 low and middle-income countries. According to the report, 80% of women in low and middle-income countries own mobile devices. And, 48% of those women use mobile to get internet access. ‘We are seeing significantly increased mobile access for women, however in an increasingly connected world, women are still being left behind,’ noted Mats Granryd, Director General of GSMA. ‘While mobile connectivity is spreading quickly, it is not spreading equally. Unequal access to mobile technology threatens to exacerbate the inequalities women already experience.’ Such inequality is attributed to affordability, literacy and digital skills, a perceived lack of relevance, and safety and security. The study suggests that closing the gender gaps in low and middle-income countries could be an important commercial opportunity for the mobile industry since it could provide an estimated additional US$140 billion in revenue to the over the next five years.
The need for people to gain access to ICT resources and narrow the digital divide is crucial, and is especially relevant now in the light of the Sustainable Development Goals. It is also important to understand how access to the Internet affects the level of economic and social development in a country.
Capacity development is often defined as the improvement of knowledge, skills and institutions to make effective use of resources and opportunities. Widespread on the agenda of international development agencies, capacity development programs range from societal to individual level and include a diversity of strategies, from fundraising to targeted training.
Internet access is growing rapidly, yet large groups of people remain unconnected to the Internet. As of 2015, about 43% of people had access to the Internet (in developing countries only 34%). Access to ICTs is part of the Sustainable Development Agenda, which commits to ‘significantly increase access to ICTs and strive to provide universal and affordable access to the Internet in least developed countries by 2020’ (Goal 9.c).
The digital divide can be defined as a rift between those who, for technical, political, social, or economic reasons, have access and capabilities to use ICT/Internet, and those who do not. Various views have been put forward about the size and relevance of the digital divide.