Taking cognisance of a “significant gender gap” associated with access to, and the use of internet and mobile services in the country, the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has urged its officers to attend a seminar on the topic “Women and Mobile: Bridging the Gender Gap”, which it is organising on Thursday in collaboration with GSM Association, according to an internal circular seen by The Indian Express.
“The gender gap can be attributed to a number of factors including the cost of devices and services, network coverage, concerns around security and harassment as well as lack of technical literacy among women. This course explains the background to the issues and focuses on strategies that can be used to help close the gender gap,” the DoT’s training cell noted. Last week, a study published by LIRNEAsia – an information and communications technology (ICT) policy think tank – noted that India had the highest gender gap in mobile phone ownership amongst 16 comparable countries – including ones such as Pakistan, Bangladesh, Kenya, Rwanda, Cambodia, Guatemala – and ranked among the lowest in women’s access to the Internet. The study said that women in India were 46 per cent less likely to own a mobile than men. Notably, at 24 per cent, the gender gap among smartphone users was lesser than the total difference in mobile phone ownership.
Notwithstanding the narrower gap in smartphone ownership, the gender divide in internet use was even higher than mobile ownership, the study pointed out. In India, there was a 57 per cent gap between men and women using online facilities such as e-mail, Google, Facebook, etc. The country was only behind Rwanda and Bangladesh – both having 62 per cent gap in internet use. Among the uses of internet, a significant divide was also present in the use of social media, where the gap between men and women in India was 60 per cent, only behind Bangladesh at 66 per cent.
The study also found that a higher percentage of women used social media for marketing and educational content, while men used social media to chat – significantly more than women. Further, contrary to the findings in other nations, India was the only country in those studied by the think-tank where higher percentage of women said they were confronted by unwanted offensive or inappropriate material while using social media.