Insidious and expensive: The massive, hidden cost of keeping women offline.

Let us start with numbers: more than a third, or 37%, of all the women in the world are not using the internet, according to the 2022 report of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). That’s 1.44 billion offline women or the size of the entire population of India.

Compare it to men: 69% of all the men in the world had used the internet, with only 31% unconnected.

That is called the digital gender divide, where less women are meaningfully and productively connected. The problem has caused low to middle-income countries a staggering US$ 1 trillion in their economies so far. If this is not addressed, the loss will balloon to US$ 1.5 trillion by 2025.

To help imagine this problem, start with the general premise: women and men are not equal in the offline world. Problems like wage gap (women are earning 20% less than men according to 2022 figures), discrimination, and the vulnerability of women to abuse, still persist.

ITU charts that show the digital gender gap in 2022, globally and by regions
Although women account for nearly half the world’s population, 259 million fewer women have access to the internet than men. The gender gap is even more concerning in lower-income nations where 21% of women are online compared to 32% of men, a figure that has not improved since 2019.​

Between a man who has higher income to afford a device that can meaningfully connect him to the internet, thus learning all the skills needed for the highly-digitalized processes of a capitalist system, and a woman who does not have enough income to do the same, a profit-driven company will choose the man.

Imagine that situation a hundred-fold, and then imagine the problem being exacerbated by the fact that women are discouraged from fully engaging in the digital space because of the harms and threats of online gender-based violence, then you can start to grasp just how tilted the digital world is against women.


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This story was produced in partnership with

About GDIP
The Global Digital Inclusion Partnership is a coalition of public, private, and civil society organizations working to bring internet connectivity to the global majority and ensure everyone is meaningfully connected by 2030. GDIP advances digital opportunities to empower and support people’s lives and agency, leading to inclusive digital societies.

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