March 8th 2023, International Women's Day as an Occasion for Reflection on the Digital Female Future in India
At a time when the UN has set DigitAll as the theme for International Women’s Day 2023 it might be wise to think about the possibilities of this imitative.
Overall, digitalization has had a positive impact on Indian women by increasing access to education, employment opportunities, financial inclusion, and empowerment. However, there is still a long way to go in terms of closing the gender gap and ensuring that women have equal access to digital resources and opportunities.
Data from the National Family Health Survey-5, which for the first time contrasted the internet use of men and women, revealed that just 33% of Indian women and 57% of Indian males have ever used the internet. In addition, only 8.4% of Indian women are online, compared to 11.6 percent of Indian males, which is 27 percent less than what it is for men.
Although there is greater access to computers and the internet in urban areas, there is a greater digital gap in rural areas, with only 25% of women using the internet compared to 49% of men.
Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Tripura, and Telangana were the states which had the lowest rates of internet usage among urban women. The only three Indian states where rural women used the internet more than 50% of the time were Goa, Kerala, and Sikkim.
According to researchers, rural India’s gender gap is due to three things. The first is the rural-urban digital divide, which translates into fewer women owning smart phones in rural areas as a result of lower internet penetration in rural areas.
The second issue that prevents equal access to digital technology is the income-based digital divide between households. For instance, each GB of data costs low-income households in the nation—those making less than $2 per day—3 percent of their monthly income, as compared to households in the middle—those making between $10 and $20 per day—0.2 percent.
Last but not least, gender inequality is made worse by regressive societal norms and discrimination at the family level that hinder women from having equal access to technology and digital gadgets.
This can be seen by the fact that some rural areas have banned the use of smart phones by women while others have forbidden access to the internet since that is viewed as a corruptive influence.
The answer in 2023 lies in the development of a streamlined technology model that is accessible to all, apart from up skilling more women so that they become digitally literate. To use technology as a tool of empowerment, regulations that challenge established socio-cultural norms must be put in place as well as resources for up skilling so that women can more properly manage. Finally, policy measures aimed at women’s empowerment and those aimed at technological innovation must extend their reach in a more organized fashion. At present, the policy related to digitalization is rather fragmented and area restrictive. In order to be effective, it is important that policy interventions be linked with other aspects like financial inclusion, social welfare and protection.
Trustee at Saroj Nalini Dutt Memorial Association (long-standing IAW Associate)
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