UN: Digital gender divide puts communities at risk

A new report by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and the Emergency Telecommunications Cluster (ETC) shows that equal access to information and communication technology (ICT) can save lives in emergencies, such as the COVID-19 pandemic. It highlights the digital gender divide which impedes women to become equal members of a society. This, especially in emergencies, puts whole communities at risk. ‘In the wake of disaster, women are more vulnerable and more likely to die than men. The COVID-19 pandemic has devastating social and economic consequences for women and girls because they comprise the majority of healthcare workers, are over-represented in the informal economy, and take on most domestic work —significantly compounding pre-existing inequalities.’ Women are 17% less likely to use the Internet than men. This digital gap is wider in least developed countries. In low and middle-income countries, women are 10% less likely to own a phone than men. The global gender gap in mobile ownership is widest in South Asia. ‘Gender-based inequality shows up in the use of information and communication technology as well as in their design, development and launch – and crucially, in how they are used in disaster risk management, yet, putting these technologies in the right hands can transform the way women and their communities prepare for, respond to, and recover from disasters,’ stated Director of the ITU Telecommunication Development Bureau Doreen Bogdan-Martin. The report was launched during the World Summit on the Information Society Forum 2020.