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Women in digital darkness: 18% more women lack internet access than men

Nearly one-third of the world's population does not have access to the internet. The gender gap is especially concerning in low-income countries where only one-fifth of women have the internet.

Globally, the internet is becoming more affordable, yet for some nations, the cost remains the main obstacle to surfing the net.

2.7 billion people in the world remain unconnected, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) estimates.

"Access to the internet is increasing, but not as quickly and evenly across the world as it needs to," said Doreen Bogdan-Martin, Director of ITU's Telecommunication Development Bureau and ITU Secretary-General-elect. "Too many people still live in digital darkness."

World's population has surpassed 8 billion people, and nearly half are women. However, when it comes to connectivity, 259 million fewer women have digital access than men. According to ITU statistics, 63% of women have internet access compared to 69% of men.

Internet usage

The situation is even more concerning when it comes to low-income countries where only 21% of the female population have access to the internet compared to 32% of men.

This figure, according to the ITU, has not improved since 2019. Gender parity – the female percentage of internet users, divided by the male percentage – has improved from 0.90 in 2019 to 0.92 in 2022.

"Generally, regions with the highest internet use also have the highest gender parity scores. Conversely, many of the world's least developed and vulnerable economies feature low Internet use, a low gender parity score, and limited progress toward gender parity over the last three years," ITU explained.

When measured by the absolute difference between the numbers of men and women online, the gender gap increased by 20 million.

"Furthermore, while women account for roughly half of the population, they account for a disproportionate – and increasing – share of the global offline population: women now outnumber male non-users by 18%, up from 11% in 2019."

The report by ITU also revealed that three-quarters of the global population aged ten and over own a mobile phone. However, more people own a smartphone than use the internet, especially in lower-income countries.

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