GENEVA, SWITZERLAND — A new study from the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) on Tuesday showed that some 4.1 billion people worldwide are now online, but in most countries, developing ones particularly, women’s use of the Internet is still falling behind.
Overall, more than half of the total global female population, or 52 percent, is still not using the Internet, compared to 42 percent of all men, while in every region of the world except the Americas more men than women use the Internet, according to the study released by the ITU.
ITU data show that Internet use continues to grow globally, with 4.1 billion people now using the Internet, or 53.6 percent of the global population. However, an estimated 3.6 billion people remain offline, with the majority of the unconnected living in the least developed countries where an average of just two out of every ten people are online.
As mobile phones are the most-often used means of accessing the Internet, the ITU estimates that 96 percent of the world population now lives within reach of a mobile cellular signal, among which 93 percent has access to 3G or higher networks.
However, countries where the mobile phone ownership gender gap is large also have a high number of women not using the Internet, suggesting that raising women’s mobile phone ownership could help reduce the Internet gender divide.
In a nutshell, the study concludes that affordability and lack of digital skills remain the key barriers to the uptake and effective use of the Internet, especially in the world’s least developed countries.
“Lack of digital skills and literacy to enable more people — and especially women — to participate and flourish in the digital economy” would be some of the critical issues to be addressed, according to Doreen Bogdan-Martin, director of ITU’s Telecommunication Development Bureau.
This study is expected to provide a powerful tool for governments to better understand connectivity issues, including the growing digital gender divide, and to make informed policy decisions to connect the unconnected and track progress at the global level, said Zhao Houlin, the ITU secretary general.