A new research has found that Nigeria and other lower-middle-income countries have lost an estimated $1 trillion in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in the last ten years due to barriers preventing women from accessing the Internet.
The study, conducted by the World Wide Web Foundation and the Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI), measures how the digital gender gap — the difference between the number of women and men who can access the internet — has affected economic output across 32 countries.
The report estimates that in 2020, the digital gender gap cost these economies a total of $126 billion, representing s a loss of more than $24 billion in tax revenues, funds that could be used to invest in education, health, and infrastructure programmes.
The findings of the study underline an urgent need to tackle barriers to digital access so that everyone is able to participate in the digital economy.
In the 32 countries studied, the gender gap has barely improved since 2011, dropping just half a percentage point from 30.9 percent to 30.4 percent.
The report stated that a few governments have implemented specific policies designed to remove a range of barriers that prevent women from using the Internet.
These barriers include the affordability of data and devices, gaps in education and digital skills, social pressures discouraging women using the Internet, and fears about online privacy, safety, and security.
Web Foundation Director of Research, Catherine Adeya, said, “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 mobilisation, a failure to deliver access for all means failing to realise everyone’s potential to contribute.
“Governments that enable women to fully participate in the digital revolution will unlock a wealth of creativity and productivity.”
The report estimates that closing the digital gender gap would add an estimated $524 billion in economic activity over the next five years.
Launching the report at the 2021 Africa Summit for Women and Girls in Technology, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Founder, Umlambo Foundation and former Executive Director of UN Women said, “In 2015 the world agreed on 17 ambitious global goals to build a better future.”
“Whether on health, climate or the economy, we will not meet these goals until we tackle gender inequality. And we will not achieve gender equality until we eliminate this digital gap that keeps so many women offline and away from the opportunities the internet provides. The time for governments to act is now.”
The Director of Digital Development, World Bank and A4AI Advisory Council member, Boutheina Guermazi, said, “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 by addressing inequalities in education and earning power.
“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.”