Five Insights to Drive Digital Inclusion of Women

March 12, 2024

By Dr. Sonja Kelly, Global Vice President, Research & Advocacy, Women’s World Banking

The early release of the GSMA Mobile Gender Gap 2024 headlines, the World Bank Global Digital Summit, and the preparations for Brazil’s G20 focus on digital identity and data governance converged this past week, with important insights on women’s digital inclusion. The timing of these could not be better, on the heels of International Women’s Day and bringing us into the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) convening this week at the UN. As we celebrate these insights and efforts, we at Women’s World Banking are also aware of the danger of women’s lived experience getting lost in the volume of voices.

Our collective insights on women’s behaviors and preferences should drive these conversations. If we design digital environments for the least likely adopters, they will tend to work for everyone. In other words, if we design for women, we design for all.

Here are five insights we are tracking in our own work that help us to think differently about women’s digital inclusion:

Progress on addressing the mobile gender gap has stalled.

GSMA Mobile Gender Gap 2024 data will show that the gender gap in mobile internet access is 15%, which was the same as it was in 2020. This gap is reduced from the previous year, but only means we’ve hit the levels we saw at the start of the pandemic.

Women use internet less frequently than men do, and for a narrower range of activities.

The GSMA Mobile Gender Gap 2024 report will show that women’s use of the internet differs from men’s. Women’s World Banking’s research supports this: women e-commerce entrepreneurs in Indonesia use a smaller range of mobile platforms for their business than do men e-commerce entrepreneurs. Efforts to leverage digital connectivity for inclusion must also account for usage patterns between men and women.

Women and girls have lower digital literacy and digital financial capability than men and boys.

CSW emphasizes the role of technology in gender equality and empowerment for women and girls. Women and girls are 25% less likely to have the skills to use personal technology devices for basic activities, and women have important digital financial capability needs. Work to close the mobile and digital gender gaps cannot ignore the skill gaps between men and women.

Digital connectivity is a tool for women’s empowerment.

Data from the last few years shows that digital payments, enabled by digital public infrastructure, empower women and families. In India, digital payments increased women’s employment outside the household. In Niger, households where women received digital social assistance payments had a 16 percent more diverse diet than those who received cash. In Pakistan, linking digital ID to cash transfers increased women’s control over their cash by 9 percentage points.

Women are not a substantial part of the digital workforce (yet).

We know that in many contexts, more gender diverse teams create stronger outcomes for customers. World Bank data, however, show that women are fewer than 30 percent of total employees in the IT sector. To close the gender gap in digital connectivity, we also must focus on building the pipeline of women workers.

The call to action emerging from these insights is clear: if you are taking part in the conversations at the UN, World Bank, or G20; or if you are supporting industry-level engagement with GSMA or even Women’s World Banking’s network, don’t neglect to highlight the importance of focusing digital connectivity and infrastructure conversations on the needs, behaviors, and preferences of women. Without this focus, we cannot achieve our shared goal of women’s digital equality globally.