IGF 2019 WS #360 Innovation and inequality?: online gender disparities

Organizer 1: Aileen Agüero García, DIRSI / Institute for Peruvian Studies (Instituto de Estudios Peruanos)
Organizer 2: Chenai Chair, Research ICT Africa
Organizer 3: Ruhiya Kris Seward, IDRC
Organizer 4: Anri van der Spuy, Research ICT Africa

Speaker 1: Aileen Agüero García, Civil Society, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)
Speaker 2: Chenai Chair, Civil Society, African Group
Speaker 3: Helani Galpaya, Civil Society, Asia-Pacific Group
Speaker 4: Nishant Shah, Civil Society, Asia-Pacific Group

Policy Question(s): 

What are the new manifestations of digital gender disparities?
What activities are women doing online; do women's Internet uses show gendered traditional patterns? How could policy makers promote equal opportunities?
What policies are needed to enhance Internet access for women in ways that are meaningful for themselves?

Relevance to Theme: Although there have been significant advances towards gender equality in basic levels, women remain underrepresented in different aspects in their everyday lives; the ICT field is not an exception. The possibility to access and use the Internet is unevenly distributed between men and women (Gray et al. 2016) and factors such as education, socioeconomic level and skills could play a fundamental role in explaining gender differences in ICT use (Robinson et al. 2015). Information technologies are usually considered to be gender neutral, however existing social power relationships determine who benefits and shapes the content, development and use of them (SIDA 2015). In particular, cultural values and practices tend to exclude women from access and development of these technologies, moreover these entrenched norms constrain women from the benefits that ICT could bring in different dimensions, like education, relationship with the government, work, among others (Rashid 2016; Spence 2010). If ICT public policies do not take into account these issues, it will be difficult for women to obtain the same benefits as men from the digital paradigm (Hafkin 2002). In this sense, it is important to ask what the “new” ways of gender digital disparities are(understand what exactly a gender gap means considering new advances in technology) , and how digital inequalities emerge in society (consequences in a rapidly digitizing world). Therefore, this panel provides analysis and discussion of high-level findings from the After Access surveys in the Global South. Among the diverse topics of digital gender inequalities, we highlight three levels that complement each other in an interesting way:
(1) ICT use (mobile phone apps use);
(2) ICT monetary benefits (microwork or digital labor); and
(3) ICT challenges and risks (cybersecurity).
The first level refers to the diversity of ICT uses through mobile phones (in particular, the use of apps like games, social media, transport, commerce or business apps). Evidence shows that not only ICT usage levels (frequency or intensity of use) but also apps use differs between men and women (Economides & Grousopoulou 2008; GSMA 2018). We show evidence on four indicators to assess gender differences in the first level of analysis: mobile apps use, frequency of mobile apps uses, digital skills related to mobile apps uses, and reasons for not using smartphones.
In the second level we seek to relate ICT use to a relevant outcome: digital labor. Digital labor is becoming increasingly important to workers particularly those that live in low and middle-income countries. On the one hand, women might face new forms of exclusion in this new segment (for example, entry barriers or a gender wage gap); on the other hand, women can take advantage of entering the digital labor market that could not be exploited in the traditional labor market. For this level, we discuss three indicators: microwork participation, types of microwork tasks and main determinants for adopting microwork.
Finally, both mobile apps use and digital labor participation can lead to new challenges and risks. In the third level, we discuss the potential challenges and risks that women face when they adopt ICT and participate in the Information Society. In this sense, we seek to present and discuss about four indicators: type of information shared in the Internet, comfortability in online discussions by topics, online violence victim, online problems such as phishing or spam.

Relevance to Internet Governance: Digital Inclusion is key to encompass a broad sector of Internet governance. Digital Inclusion aims to provide a framework for assessing and considering the various elements and policies which can promote equitable access and opportunities in the digital age. It also enhances identifying those with less or no access to the Internet (marginalized groups, minorities, people with disabilities or people lacking digital literacy) and promotes the achievement of an inclusive information society. Furthermore, fostering digital inclusion contributes to a stronger economy and economic development through shared wealth, shared employment, and equal opportunities for all. On the other hand, Digital Inclusion has to go hand in hand with security, safety and stability of digital platforms that increases the potential benefits to whole information society. Thus, it is important to encourage digital users’ resilience to account for online risky behaviors and reduce the probability to be a victim of a growing range of online threats.


Round Table - U-shape - 60 Min

Description: This workshop focuses on understanding diversity and inclusion from a gender perspective in relation to use of technology for social and economic rights. The workshop will draw from high-level findings from an ICT demand-side study undertaken in 2017 and 2018 across six Latin American countries (Argentina, Colombia, Guatemala, Ecuador, Paraguay and Peru), nine African countries (Kenya, South Africa, Ghana, Nigeria, Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda, Senegal and Mozambique) and six Asian countries (Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Cambodia, India and Pakistan). The digital economy has experienced rapid growth in recent years, with the use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) becoming a central part of the everyday lives of people, firms and governments. Through the great diversity of digital devices present at home, workplace and even public spaces, the use of ICT has transformed traditional ways of engaging in activities related to commerce, labor, transportation, education, health, social interactions, among others. However, this has not been a socially and economic inclusive process: as more people become connected and able to enjoy the benefits of using ICT, more rifts emerge –from the unconnected, to the unequal access to rights and gendered digital divide. This problem is not solved through connectivity-focused policy alone: disparities evidenced in the intensity of use and in the unequal capabilities to reap ICT benefits should be considered. The session will take 60 minutes and it will be structured as follows: 10 minutes for mobile apps use issue discussion, 10 minutes for microwork issue discussion, 10 minutes for cybersecurity issues discussion, and 30 minutes for interaction with participants of the session (including questions, comments, recommendations, etc.). Finally, it is important to mention that we would have one presenter for each region, the presentation will be integrated into a comparative analysis, enabling an active conversation to emphasize trends, challenges, similarities among Global South countries and an engagement with the audience. At the same time, a feminist, humanist and technologist speaker will provide deep insights on the discussed topics.

Expected Outcomes: Post the conference, a blog will be published drawing from the queries and recommendations raised in the conference on the impact of technology and gendered economic participation. The discussions will also feed into our engagement with other partners such as the ITU Equals initiative in understanding the gendered digital divides. The findings of our research focus on providing critical evidence on the new ICT challenges, that we believe enable the identification of the exact points of policy intervention rather than generalized responses to gender digital inequality. These include: (1) mobile phone uses (gender differences in mobile applications use, frequency of mobile applications uses, digital skills related to mobile applications uses, reasons for not using smartphones); (2) microwork (microwork participation, types of microwork tasks, main determinants for doing microwork); and (3) cybersecurity (type of information shared in Internet, comfortability in online discussion by topics, online violence victims, online problems such as phishing or spam). Therefore, we aim to draw thoughts from different stakeholders reflecting on our findings and proposed best fit practices.

Onsite Moderator: 

Ruhiya Kris Seward, Government, Intergovernmental Organization

Online Moderator: 

Anri van der Spuy, Civil Society, African Group


Aileen Agüero García, Civil Society, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)

Discussion Facilitation: 

Half of the session will be devoted to discussion.
The session includes both a quantitative and a qualitative perspective, with a speaker with a deep understanding of the topic and a personality that encourages discussions.
All the speakers will constantly address the audience to see if they have doubts or need clarifications.

Online Participation: 

Usage of IGF Tool

Proposed Additional Tools: We are planning to use twitter and facebook (live videos).


GOAL 5: Gender Equality
GOAL 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth
GOAL 10: Reduced Inequalities
GOAL 12: Responsible Production and Consumption