This International Day of the Girl, we declare: access to digital resources is no longer optional.
Learning, earning — entire communities — have moved online. And yet nearly 2.2 billion people below the age of 25 still don’t have Internet access at home (UN Women). The pandemic, especially, has exposed this glaring digital divide between wealthy and low-income countries. While many students in high-income countries easily transitioned to online schooling, access to remote learning remains out of reach for 500 million students around the world. And the divide is even greater for girls.
Studies show that, when women and girls are able to engage with Internet technology, a wide range of personal, family and community benefits become possible through a positive feedback loop of support.
But as more and more people are coming online, the gender gap for global Internet users continues to worsen, not improve. Women and girls are, on average, 43% less likely to engage online than their male counterparts—due to denial of access or training. It’s time to make a change and ensure that girls have equal access to the global digital community and resources.
Closing the gender digital divide for girls is about more than simple connectivity. Girls are less likely than boys to use and own smart devices to open the door to a global digital network of knowledge, tech-related skills and jobs. It curtails earning power and perpetuates the cycle of poverty for women and girls.
Denial of Internet access prevents women from accessing legal and financial institutions, limits their access to education, and is a tool of control to limit their social interactions outside the home — each of which is a perpetuating factor in gender based violence and cycles of malnourishment and poverty. Only by addressing the inequity and exclusion that span geographies and generations can we usher in a digital revolution for all, with all.