Connecting the next billion users - Women

By Nasubo Ongoma
  Published 09 Oct 2018
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Our society is largely unequal, resources are unevenly distributed, this inequality is also reflected in technology. How can we make this space inclusive? Inclusivity entails identifying and acknowledging the existing barriers surrounding technology.

On this post, on connecting the next African Internet users, I spoke on how to overcome internet access barriers. Barriers are factors that prevent users from fully utilising the Internet, for instance, advocating for favourable policy changes for people living in rural areas, optimising applications for the mobile phone, digital literacy trainings and encouraging multilingualism. As we encourage many to come online, we need to make a concerted effort to ensure that no one is left behind.

Internet Statistics

7.5 billion people in the world, with 50.44% male and 49.55% female, however, less than 46% people use the internet. This continent, has only 25.3% of the population accessing the internet, worse still is there are 25% more men than women using the internet.

Courtesy of ITU Facts and Figures report 2017

The graph highlights a worrying trend, women constitute almost half the population, but less than 20% have access. As more and more people are getting connected, there is a need for increasing access for women, if not, women shall always lag behind without fully exploring the capabilities of internet to improve their lives/ livelihoods.

Let's explore on how exclusion directly affects women online.

  1. There are very few women programmers globally, net effect; discriminatory algorithms. Most of the training data reflects the world view of the designers, for instanceGoogle’s Ad targetingwhich gave higher paying jobs to men than women, gender biased machine learning.
  2. Online harassment against women, this is due to normalisation of gender roles and cultural customs. Net effect: emotional and psychological effects which threaten women’s personal safety. One may argue that virtual is not real, however, many lives have been affected by online harassment, which leads to several possible outcomes; leave or self censorship.
  3. Reporting channels both online and offline are not sufficient to redress women’s plights. Often when people report online harassment or violence are often trivialised, this results in prolonged cases or inaction, that leaves the plight of women unattended to.

The internet offers a lot of benefits to people,but it can also be a dark place, a place of anguish for its users and a source of discomfort and guilt, especially when an injustice is committed. It is imperative that more women are brought to the forefront to help shape this space.

My view, is "the internet has enough space to accommodate all people, shouldn’t we then allow all people to curve a space?" On the next post, I shall speak about how the internet, as a new social construct, not bound by space,is changing the way we think and evolve over time.

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