Countries are losing trillions of dollars to gender gap in internet use – 2nd Deputy Governor of BoG

Second Deputy Governor of the Bank of Ghana (BoG) Elsie Addo Awadzi has said a lack of literacy and digital skills, lack of trust and lack of affordability continue to be key barriers to mobile internet adoption.

Referring to the GSMA’s 2021 Mobile Gender Gap Report which suggests that women are 15 percent less likely to own a smartphone than men, down from 20 percent in 2019, with 234 million fewer women than men accessing the mobile internet, she said the gap differs between regions and appears most pronounced in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.

Madam Addo Awadzi was speaking during the UN Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) International Women’s Days Dialogue on Tuesday March 8 on the Theme: “Women as Builders of Digital Economies in Ghana – A Call to Action to Close the Gender Gap on Access to and Usage of Digital Financial Services in Ghana.”

“In Sub-Saharan Africa, women are 14% less likely to own a basic mobile phone and 34% less likely to own a smart phone that can connect to mobile Internet, and in Ghana, women are 16 percent less likely than men to have a mobile phone that connects to the internet. Even when access is granted, the digital gender divide persists in usage. Among smartphone owners, women are 18% less likely to use mobile Internet.

“Female mobile users also feel less able than male users to learn a new activity on a phone by themselves. These factors translate into lower usage of digital financial services where they exist.

“Beyond the social cost, excluding women from the digital economy can take a significant economic toll on low and lower-middle income countries. According to Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI), over the last decade, these countries have lost a total of US$1 trillion in gross domestic product (GDP) to the gender gap in internet use.

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“Based on current tax-to-GDP ratios in these countries, this loss represents an estimated US$24.7 billion in lost tax revenue in 2020 and unless the gap significantly narrows, these countries will likely continue to lose billions more of economic activity (USD) each year if women continue to be excluded from the digital world.

“As I said earlier in my remarks, there are opportunities to increase women’s full participation in the fast-growing and fast-evolving digital economy not only here in Ghana but in Africa and globally.

“Ghana’s private sector is dominated by women entrepreneurs, second only to Uganda, according to the 2019 MasterCard Index of Women Entrepreneurs. Our women farmers, food processers and vendors, market women, textile manufacturers, fashion designers, and dress makers, hair and beauty stylists, creatives, artists, jewelry makers, contractors, and professionals in every field of endeavour, and many others have been some of the most unsung heroes of our history. Against all odds, they continue to soldier on and support their families, communities and our economy.

“Opportunities however exist for women to harness the benefits of technology and new markets across Africa under the AfCFTA and beyond Africa, thanks to technology and e-commerce platforms among others. These market opportunities offer hope to women-owned and women-led businesses in Ghana to scale up and to compete with their peers abroad. To enhance more participation of women in Ghana
in the digital economy, however, there is the urgent need to address supply side and demand side barriers by adopting gender-focused interventions to respond swiftly to the opportunities presented by the digital economy.”

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By Laud Nartey||Ghana