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New Broadband Commission call to action provides guide to close digital gender gap

Effective and tangible action is urgent, says new report

Hong Kong, 15 March 2017

The Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development's Working Group on the Digital Gender Divide, co-chaired by the GSMA and UNESCO, released a new report, Recommendations for action: bridging the gender gap in Internet and broadband access and use, which sets specific recommendations to address the barriers women face in access and use of the Internet.

The report highlights key action areas for different types of stakeholders as part of the group's efforts to ensure that all women and girls can fully participate in the online world.

Despite worldwide endeavours, the global Internet user gender gap widened from 11% in 2013 to 12% in 2016, with the gap highest in Least Developed Countries (LDCs) (31%) and Africa (23%). Moreover, Internet penetration rates remain higher for men than women in all regions of the world.

"The continuous development of new technologies and their application to economic, political and social processes is creating new opportunities that can enhance the quality of human life," said Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO. "To be sustainable, all new opportunities must be available to all, to empower all, for the benefit of all - especially girls and women."

Structural inequalities remain and impede women's full and equal participation in the digital economy. Greater Internet access and use can not only have a positive impact on women's lives, but can deliver significant benefits to the wider economy and society, and support the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, in particular Goal 9c, which contains a target for universal and affordable access to information and communications technologies (ICTs) in LDCs by 2020.

"Addressing the digital gender divide is critical to realizing the significant potential benefits that the Internet can bring for women, their families and communities" Mats Granryd, Director General of the GSMA, said. "We hope that the recommended actions in this report will lead to concerted efforts to reduce the gender gap in Internet access and use. Working together, we can make significant strides to erase the digital gender divide, in full support of the SDGs."    

The report recognizes the different but complementary roles of various actors, including governments and policy-makers, private sector, intergovernmental organizations, NGOs, and academia and research institutions, and outlines detailed recommendation action points for each stakeholder group.

The Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development was established in 2010 and comprises of more than 50 leaders from across a range of government and industry sectors. They are committed to actively supporting countries, UN experts and NGOs to fully leverage the potential of ICT to drive national Sustainable Development Goal strategies in key areas such as education, healthcare, gender equality and environmental management.