Time to act: Closing the Gender Gap in Technology

Mobile phones have the power to revolutionize our lives. Mobile technology influences our economy, society, and personal lives. It facilitates people to access better information and communication opportunities. Moreover, it has enabled new services and products that have played an important role in improving the socio-economic conditions of our society. It especially has the power to transform women’s lives by empowering them and giving them economic independence.

Mobile technology enables women to overcome physical boundaries, especially in places where they are separated from their support networks.

Time to act: Closing the Gender Gap in Technology

They feel more secure and confident when they have their own mobiles as they get better access to information, connectivity and life-enhancing opportunities.

Unfortunately, despite improving mobile penetration, women are still left behind especially in third world countries like Pakistan.

This unequal access to mobile technology has no doubt put an adverse effect on socio-economic growth. GSMA is one of the most active proponents of reduction in the gender gap in mobile technology. It annually publishes Mobile Gender Gap Report that highlights the status and problems related to the gender gap in mobile technology. Extensive data is collected through a survey from more than 20 low- and middle-income countries across Asia, Africa and Latin America.

According to GSMA’s gender gap in mobile technology 2018 report, Women are 10% less likely than men to own a mobile phone in low- and middle-income countries and over 1.2 billion women don’t use mobile internet in these countries whereas, 26% women are less likely than men to use mobile internet. These figures show the significant gender gap in mobile usage. If we talk specifically about Pakistan,

the report states that only 44% of women own mobile phones whereas 80% of men are using mobile phones.

The figures show a huge gender gap in mobile ownership in Pakistan. On the other hand, mobile internet penetration is also very low in Pakistan that is only 10% of women in Pakistan use mobile internet compared to 26% of men.

This gender gap in technology exerts a negative impact on the socio-economic growth of our country. It is one of the major reasons why Pakistan has still not reached the desired level of development. When we compare our economy with other developing countries, we will find out that our economy is not as stable as others.  Pakistan is a developing country and the development of our country is not possible without the participation of women. There is a need to empower women in every field. In the era of the tech revolution, it’s not possible for any nation to grow if women do not get a chance to play their roles which is not possible without the use of technology.

Mobile phones enable women to overcome physical boundaries and stay in touch with their friends and family via phones making them more confident and independent. Mobile phones can also enable women to start a business in a remote area and open gateway to financial Independence. Women can sell their products online and do freelancing and make decent earning to improve their living standards. Mobile phone enhances literacy in ways that empower women. They can use phones as communication and learning tool to educate themselves.

Although societies around the world have become quite modernized but the socio-cultural barriers are still prevalent that are hindering the women progress especially in developing countries like Pakistan. The patriarchal family system in Pakistan forbids women to take their own decisions and be completely independent. The literacy rate is also quite low in Pakistan as compared to other countries. Pakistan’s literacy rate has declined from 60 percent to 58 percent, as revealed by the economic survey of Pakistan.

The online security concerns and affordability of handsets followed by the cost of credit are some of the other reasons for the increased mobile gender gap in Pakistan.

The government needs to minimize these barriers in order to encourage women to take up technology. In order to do so, the government should run mega campaigns to create awareness about the benefits of mobile phones. Furthermore, in these type of campaigns, the dilemma of women regarding mobile phones and internet should be addressed by educating them how they can use the mobile phone for their protection. Other than that, conducting free seminars for women can also help them acknowledge the benefits of technology and via this, they would be able to use the mobile on their own without relying on others.

The government should also announce an exclusive scholarship for women in the field of technology in colleges and universities so that women take more interest in this field. The government should also provide secure cyberspace for women so that they can use the internet without the fear of harassment and online bullying. The private sector can also play its part in closing the gender gap in mobile technology, for example, mobile operators can offer special packages for women that are affordable and do not put an extra burden on their pockets. More women focused apps should be launched to facilitate women and enrich their interest in technology. The schools should engage girls in technology from an early age in order to develop their interest in the use of new technology.

Closing the mobile gender gap represents a substantial commercial opportunity for the industry and can provide an effective catalyst for economic growth. Successfully closing the mobile gender gap will also provide substantial benefits to women, their families, and their communities and will contribute to the achievement of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. When women thrive, societies, businesses, and economies thrive.

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