SEATTLE — Despite a significant internet accessibility gender gap in the developing world, a new study reports that women in sub-Saharan Africa are using mobile internet more frequently than men and are engaging with a wider variety of content. The study, pioneered by nonprofit organization Worldreader and software company Opera last May, studied the internet browsing habits of 1,500 men and women ranging from ages 14-44 in Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa. It also examined the mobile reading tendencies of 50,000 Worldreader app users from the three countries. The study’s findings elucidate the internet’s potential to reach women and lift them up through both empowering and entertaining conteonline womennt.
Worldreader and Opera found that women are using their mobile internet browsers as often as men and are purchasing larger data packages, allowing them to engage more heavily with online content. The surveyed women also reported accessing a wider array of material than their male counterparts, expressing interest in content related to education, property rights, health and other life-improvement subjects.
Women are additionally using mobile internet to access e-books, reading romance and thriller novels for entertainment as well as career and personal development texts. According to the study, they were also more likely than men to report needing access to news on their mobile devices.
The study’s findings are noteworthy because increased internet availability can often be a vital empowerment tool for women. E-books, in particular, allow readers to access a wealth of information and narratives. Worldreader, one of the study’s sponsors, believes literacy is key to improving one’s economic standing.
“Literacy is transformative,” declares Worldreader’s website. “It increases earning potential, decreases inequality, improves health outcomes and breaks the cycle of poverty.”
Worldreader aims to increase global literacy by providing users around the globe with a full library of e-books on their cell phones. It has reached more than six million readers since 2010 and offers 42,000 book titles.
The African women-led organization Make Every Woman Count also seeks to expand global accessibility to online content, targeting women in particular with its efforts. According to Rainatou Sow, founder and executive director of Make Every Woman Count, being tech-savvy makes women more competitive on the job market and more capable of starting their own businesses. Mobile internet especially allows users to browse content in a more portable fashion.
Sow also cites the internet as a tool to reduce gender-based violence and discrimination. Social media has become an integral part of activism and advocacy, and the more access women have to online platforms, the more they are able to partake in mobilization efforts.
Make Every Woman Count, in particular, uses media to make the political arena more readily available to women through training and other informational techniques. Its online platform provides women with opportunities for empowerment and advocacy, demonstrating the importance of widespread access to Information and Communications Technology (ICT) for women in developing countries.
“Without access to ICT, women are at greater risk of being left behind as agents of change and leaders in a rapidly changing global society,” Sow said. “We must ensure that women, as well as men, at all social levels and in all countries, can access and use such technology.”
Through the actions of Worldreader and Make Every Woman Count, African women will continue to use online content to entertain and empower themselves. When these women have access to a world of technology, their opportunities are infinite.
– Sabine Poux