Bridging the Gender Digital Divide: The Real Picture
I wonder how many of us would agree that technology is ‘dividing’! The Mobile Gender Gap report notes three barriers to equalization of digital divide in Asia – Lack of awareness, affordability and lack of digital skills.
Now with the low-cost handsets and internet (JIO for example); access and affordability to digital technology are no longer issues. However, while tech connectivity is improving in many places and among many groups [especially because of its immense relevance in the COVID-19 context], infrastructure at the village level [in terms of internet connectivity] and socio-economic structures still weigh heavily on technology “for all”. And within this group, women and girls significantly lack the opportunities to use mobile technology effectively.
In Indian context, one of the most important barriers is the gender digital divide, which is often conceptualized as the gender wise gap between those who have access to ICT resources and those who do not. Access to ICT may seem gender neutral at face value, in reality, women’s access to ICT is very limited in India. Gil et al. identifies four barriers that hinder women’s access to and use of ICTs: Exclusion from technology education and design; limited free time; social norms favoring men; and financial and/or institutional constraints.
Various efforts have been made so far to bridge this gender digital divide. Targeted Interventions on digital inclusion of women have helped them address gender stereotypes in their communities, learn to use technology, and feel empowered. Imparting digital skills among the rural poor from Rajasthan, Tripura and Andhra Pradesh, under the National Digital Literacy Mission of the Government of India, experienced that the women participants who were either students or stay at home mothers reported a drastic positive change in their empowerment with the digital inclusion. In Bihar, one of the poorest states in India, Turn the Bus (TTB), an Education NGO is intervening closely on bridging the gender digital divide by leveraging mobiles to reach thousands of High school students of class 10th, preparing their Boards [scores achieved in these exams are considered important for getting into universities]. This mobile application provides girls access to pool of skilled tutors (an assortment of learned professionals) or “Toppers as Tutors”. TTB is making it possible to bridge the grassroots gender digital divide and empowerment is no longer far from reach.
 DiMaggio, P.; Hargittai, E.; Celeste, C.; Shafer, S. Digital inequality: From unequal access to differentiated use. In Social Inequality; Neckerman, K.M., Ed.; Russell Sage Foundation: New York, NY, USA, 2004; pp. 355–400.
 Kwami, J. ICT4D, gender divides and development: The case of Ghana. In Development Communication in Directed Social Change: A Reappraisal of Theory and Practice, 1st ed.; Melkote, S., Ed.; Asian Media Information and Communication Centre: Singapore, 2012; pp. 199–217
 Gill, K.; Brooks, K.; McDougall, I.; Patel, P.; Kes, A. Bridging the Gender Divide: How Technology Can Advance Women Economically; International Centre for Research on Women: Washington, DC, USA, 2010.
 Digital Empowerment Foundation, 2013