There is a new kind of poverty that is confronting the world; ‘Digital Poverty’ which excludes women and girls from the digital world.

Sima Bahous, United Nations (UN) Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women, discussed the gender divide in the digital world during the 67th session of the Commission on the Status of Women.

They become the new aspect of gender inequality, and this inequality is pushing back women and girls. To decrease this gap, there is a need to challenge old norms and set new standards.

The revolution in the digital realm presents unprecedented opportunities for women and girls. Similarly, it has also given rise to reflective challenges, exacerbating gender inequalities in severe ways.

Report by United Nations (UN)

According to a report issued by the UN, gender equality could not be achieved without decreasing the digital gap.

Women are 18 percent less likely to own a smartphone, as compared to men, and far less likely to access or use the Internet.

259 million more men were found using online resources, last year as compared to women. Women occupy only 28 percent and 22 percent of space in engineering fields and artificial intelligence consecutively.

Even though women are more capable in science and technology, they are quite far away compared to men in the usage of technology.

In the global technology sector, women occupy fewer positions and also face a gender pay gap of 21 percent.

Around half of all women working in technology faced workplace harassment around the globe. The gap is wider when women lack opportunities and are vulnerable.

This widening gap is excessively affected women and girls that have low literacy or low income. Women and girls living in rural or remote areas, women migrants, women with disabilities, and older women are also facing similar disparities.

These differences and divides pose great threats to the survival of women and girls. As, the digital divide could limit women’s access to life-saving information, mobile money products, agricultural extension, and online public services.

Consequently, this primarily influences the life decisions of women and girls, whether a woman completes her education, owns her bank account, makes informed decisions about her body, feeds her family, or gains productive employment.

In the places in which women and girls do have access to digital tools and services, discriminatory attitudes cemented a foothold, and continue to find new ways to deny them their rights.

According to research, 80 percent of children in 25 countries reported danger of sexual abuse and exploitation when online, where adolescent girls are the most vulnerable.

A survey of women journalists from 125 countries, concluded that three-quarters of female reporters experienced online violence in the course of their work.

Case Studies of some Asian Countries

According to the Global Mobile Communication Systems (GSMA), there is a substantial gender gap in Asian countries, concerning the use of technology.

For example, Afghan women in Afghanistan who use YouTube and blogging experienced their doors marked by the Taliban, with many fleeing their country for safety.

Similarly, in Iran, many women and girls continue to be targeted because they participate in online campaigns. Especially, the campaigns that happened against the fascist theocratic regime concerning women’s rights.

Similarly, Pakistan experienced some of the widest mobile gender gaps, where 38 percent of Pakistani women are less likely to own a mobile phone as compared to men and 49 percent are less likely to use mobile internet.

Pakistan ranked the lowest out of the 120 countries in two categories that are gender gap in internet access and the gender gap in mobile phone access.

There are radical groups and some governments that target women that use social media, particularly women human rights defenders.

In this manner, women’s rights activists are not able to play an effective role in advocating gender-based rights, as technology and innovation are enablers.

This falls under the category of digital repression and oppression. If this kind of oppression would continue then it would be difficult for the world community to achieve Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2030.

Digital World for Women

The digital revolution and innovation offer the potential to change the lives of women and girls around the world.

If the technological advancement is harnessed effectively it would be a game-changer to resolve poverty decrease hunger, boost health, create new jobs, and mitigate climate change.

Likewise, it would address humanitarian crises, improve energy access, and make entire cities and communities safer and more sustainable, for women and girls.

For example, considering the use of social media could allow women, to seek help in the face of rising domestic violence during COVID-19 lockdowns. It also enabled women and girls to access information and support.

Moreover, Social Media has become a crucial connector for the women’s movement within and between countries.

Technological advancements and innovations are accelerators for sustainable progress and their effective and equitable use of it would create unprecedented progress.

According to research, the digitalization of data in Niger and Haiti, and data collection in Rapid Gender Assessments saved time and money, and also offered new, more powerful data management and visualization.

Furthermore, in Ukraine, national authorities, civil society organizations, and the private sector are working together to build digital solutions that support gender-responsive aid, and economic recovery and reduce digital gaps.

Solutions to decrease Gender Divide

Every member of society irrespective of caste, creed, religion, and sect especially the most marginalized, should have equal access to digital skills and services. The E-government service should be accessible to all women and girls.

Similarly, there is a need to make investments in science, technology, and innovation that would enable girls to acquire education and skill-based knowledge.

Moreover, equal livelihood opportunities should be provided to women in the digital world. It would happen if states and countries around the globe ensures jobs and leadership positions for women in the tech and innovation sectors.

Furthermore, there is a need to ensure transparency and accountability of digital technology, as technology must be safe, inclusive, affordable, and accessible.

Also, there should be the practice of an inclusivity and accommodation approach that allows the participation of women in digitalization. It is essential to ensure that women and girls are a core part of designing, developing, and deployment of technology.

There is a need to foster ethical responsible behaviors in the male community regarding the right use of the internet.

Finally, there is a need to make the necessary investment to ensure that, online spaces are free of violence and abusive behaviors.

There is a need to deploy mechanisms of accountability to mitigate all forms of harassment and discrimination and hate speech. The aim of technology must be liberation not nurturing misogynist behaviors.