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The women fighting for digital equality

Lockdowns have forced people to spend the past year and more learning, working, and socialising online – but in many countries, women have been missing out.

They are less likely than men to have access to the internet in nearly every region of the world, according to the latest figures from UN agency the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).

The so-called digital gender gap is most noticeable in Africa, where the ITU estimates that 37% of men have internet access but only 20% of women.

What is more, the divide appears actually to have widened in Africa since 2013.

“If you don’t have digital skills, you’re going to be left behind,” says Regina Honu, founder of Soronko Academy, a tech school for women and girls in Ghana.

“Before Covid, if we put out an invitation for people to sign up, we would have 100 or 200 women,” she says.

“After Covid, we had more than 2,000 women signing up.

“Covid has made people realise that if you don’t have digital skills, you’re going to be left behind.”

Regina says many girls in Ghana might not even touch a computer until they go to school, or might have their internet access restricted by male family members.

And in the era of social distancing, connecting with people who are lacking the tech or the experience is difficult. Video calls are not possible for students without a computer or high-end smartphone, or for whom the cost of data is an issue.

Regina has instead found solutions that work for simpler phones.

“We used WhatsApp and Telegram. We made calls to check in and find out how they were doing,” she explains.

But it has not been possible to reach everybody using such methods and she was pleased when lockdown easing meant they could “come back in person”.

Source: BBC News