The Developing World Needs More Female Internet Users
A new report outlines some ways to make it happen.
More female entrepreneurs—and more women who use the Internet simply to find work—means poor communities will be better off: According to one study, women reinvest 90 percent of their income back into their family, compared with 30 percent to 40 percent for men.
Still, while there’s no question that women in the developing world face a slew of formidable Internet access hurdles, I’d add one caveat to reports like this: Life isn’t perfect for Internet users in the United States, either. While we may have significantly more access—69 percent of American women are online, according to the International Telecommunications Union (though the ITU’s definition of ”Internet user” differs from the new report’s) America has broadband infrastructure problems of its own. Americans pay higher prices for slower Internet speeds compared to their global counterparts, according to a recent report from New America’s Open Technology Institute. (Full disclosure: I work at NAF.)
And men all over fear the combination of women and tech: I remember my dad grimacing as my mom sat down at the family computer in the late ’90s—afraid she’d harm the system irrevocably. But he’s learned something since those early computer days: It’s easy to hit a key and mess up computer settings regardless of whether you’re a man or a woman.
The best way to break men’s false assumptions about how a woman will use a computer—in the developing world or the developed—is to give her one and see what she does with it.