Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 7 July 2020

More than half of women globally still not using internet, ITU says

Digital gap is widest in less developed nations such as Somalia, Rwanda and Yemen

With widespread roll-out of 5G and extension of 4G and 3G networks in rural areas, digital gap is expected to shrink in coming years. Reuters
With widespread roll-out of 5G and extension of 4G and 3G networks in rural areas, digital gap is expected to shrink in coming years. Reuters

More than half of the global female population is still not using the internet, the UN-backed internet and telecoms agency, International Telecommunications Union, said on Tuesday.

About 52 per cent of women are offline, compared with 42 per cent of men, who use the internet more in every region of the world except the Americas, which has near parity, according to the ITU research.

“These findings will help to understand the connectivity issues… including the growing digital gender divide, at a time when over half of the world’s population is using the internet,” said Houlin Zhao, ITU’s secretary general.

While the digital gender gap has been shrinking in the Commonwealth of Independent States and Europe, it is growing in Africa, the Arab states and Asia-Pacific region, the ITU data found.

In Arab countries, 58.5 per cent of males have access to the internet whereas only 44.2 per cent of females are online, according to the study.

The digital gap is widest in developing countries, especially in underdeveloped nations such as Somalia, Rwanda and Yemen.


“These statistics will help policymakers and regulators to make informed policy decisions to connect the unconnected and track progress at the global level,” said Mr Houlin.

Overall, ITU data confirmed 46.7 per cent of the global population – an estimated 3.6 billion people – remain offline this year in the absence of a co-ordinated approach towards connectivity.

Most of the people without internet live in the least developed countries, where an average of only two out of every 10 people are online.

It is estimated that about 3 billion people will remain offline in 2020. ITU’s Connect 2020 Agenda calls for up to 50 per cent of households in developing nations to gain internet access by next year and also to minimise pricing, which is keeping many disconnected.

Connecting the 3.6 billion people still offline “must become one of our most urgent development priorities”, said Doreen Bogdan-Martin, director of ITU’s Telecommunication Development Bureau.

It will require efforts to “lower the cost of broadband” and “innovative policies to finance network roll-out” to unconnected areas, she said.

Affordability and lack of digital skills are the main barriers to the uptake and effective use of the internet, said ITU.

In 40 out of 84 surveyed countries, less than half the population had basic computer skills, such as copying a file or sending an email with an


Even where internet connectivity exists, there is a need to be more creative in addressing critical issues such as “affordability of service, cost of handsets and lack of digital skills”, said Ms Bogdan-Martin.

She added it was crucial to “enable more people – especially women – to participate and flourish in the digital economy”.

The report also said internet use in developed countries is nearing saturation levels, with 87 per cent of people online.

About 82.5 per cent of Europeans use the internet, while Africa has the lowest connectivity, with only 28.2 per cent online.

However, with the launch of 5G and an extension of 4G and 3G networks in rural areas, things are progressing.

About 96 per cent of the world’s population now lives within the reach of a
mobile cellular signal and 93 per cent within the reach of a third-generation (or higher) network.

Updated: November 5, 2019 07:54 PM



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