LOW- and lower-middle-income countries, including the Philippines, lost $1 trillion in GDP in the last 10 years due to the gender gap in the digital divide, according to a new study.

The study, “The Costs of Exclusion: Economic Consequences of the Digital Gender Gap” conducted by the World Wide Web Foundation and the Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI), asserted that barriers preventing women from accessing the Internet and participating online are costing economies.

The report estimated that in 2020, the digital gender gap cost these economies a total of $126 billion. This represented a loss of more than $24 billion in tax revenues, funds that could be used to invest in education, health, and infrastructure
programs.

“This report reveals just how expensive gender inequality is for all of us. Investing in a more inclusive digital future gives leaders a tremendous opportunity to promote economic growth while creating healthier societies,” Boutheina Guermazi, Director of Digital Development, World Bank and A4AI Advisory Council member, said.

“For governments looking to build a resilient economy as part of their Covid-19 recovery plans, closing the digital gender gap should be one of the top priorities,” she added.

PHL: Rising trend favors women

In the Philippines, however, the digital gender gap favored women more than men. Internet access among women and men have also improved over time, increasing to above 60 percent in 2020 from below 20 percent, at least for women, in 2011.

Between 2011 and 2016, the Internet access of men was higher than that of women. But starting in 2017, there was a reversal that saw women’s access online to surpass men.

In 2017, women’s internet access was at 56 percent while that of men was at 48 percent. This gradually improved to 67 percent for women and 65 percent for men in 2020.

But other low- and lower-middle income countries in the region were still struggling. Only Mongolia has reversed the trend in 2019, where women now had more access to the Internet than men at 72 percent versus 71 percent.

The trend in Mongolia is holding: in 2020, women’s access to the Internet increased to 78 percent while men’s access remained at 71 percent. However, this showed a wider digital gender divide that favored women.

“Closing the digital gender gap is not just a moral cause, it is also an economic imperative. As the Internet becomes a more potent enabler for education, business, and community mobilization, a failure to deliver access for all means failing to realize everyone’s potential to contribute. Governments that enable women to fully participate in the digital revolution will unlock a wealth of creativity and productivity,” Web Foundation Director of Research Catherine Adeya said.

The report estimates that closing the digital gender gap would add an estimated $524 billion in economic activity over the next five years.

By investing to enable more women to use the Internet and participate in the digital economy, governments have a substantial opportunity to generate economic growth.

To promote a more inclusive digital economy, the report encourages governments to look holistically at the barriers that impede women’s and girls’ access to the Internet.

It urges them to develop comprehensive broadband strategies that include infrastructure investment, transparent policy targets, and programs to deliver digital skills and literacy training, promote women’s and girls’ rights, and address safety and privacy concerns.





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