Twenty nine per cent of Ghanaian women are now using the internet, 6% less than their male counterparts, according to a new survey from the World Wide Web Foundation.
This shows that the country has made significant progress towards closing the gender gap in internet access, with 29% of women now online, up from fewer than 20% in 2016.
The survey identified that 43% of women living in urban areas who are not online said they do not use the internet because they do not know how, compared with just 27% of men in urban areas.
The survey also found out that when women are online, they are less likely to engage in certain kinds of activities. Men, for example, are over 29% more likely to advertise or sell products and services online.
They are also almost 24% more likely to post comments about social, economic and political issues, suggesting women are less able to participate in online debate.
It also found out that less than one-in- three people in Ghana are online.
The report however pointed out that though women are closing the gender gap in internet access they still miss out on benefits of digital technology.
It however warned that women using the internet in Ghana still experienced lower quality of connection compared to men. This prevent them from fully benefiting from digital technology.
Ghana has a 14% gender gap in ‘meaningful connectivity’, a measure based on whether users have fast speeds, enough data, a suitable device and regular access to the internet.
The women surveyed were around half as likely as men to say that they had internet speeds sufficient to meet their online needs. And, on average, they had smaller data bundles, with 75% of women limited to 1GB data or less per month, compared with just 58% of men.
The report found out that slow speeds and limited data severely constrained how people use the internet, particularly for high-bandwidth applications needed to work and learn from home which, during the COVID-19 crisis, have become more important than ever.
Chenai Chair, Web Foundation Research Manager for Gender and Digital Rights said: “getting basic internet access is just the first step. To participate in digital society, you need an affordable quality connection, you need the digital skills to use the internet and you need to feel safe online. While Ghana has seen important progress, it is still the case that women here – and around the world – face a multitude of barriers preventing them from realising the internet’s full benefits”.
The report warns that exclusion of women from digital society is a threat to progress on gender equality and denies women opportunities to improve their lives, stressing “the internet is one of the most empowering technologies the world has ever seen, but unless women are equally able to benefit from it, the gender divide risks driving further inequality.”
Vivian Affoah, Programme Manager for Freedom of Expression and Digital Rights at the Media Foundation for West Africa, which works to tackle digital gender inequalities in Ghana, said: “This digital gender divide doesn’t just hurt women, it’s a problem for everyone in Ghana. When women can fully participate, economies prosper, opportunities increase and we all benefit. If the government wants to build a vibrant digital economy where everyone can contribute, it must put in place measures that ensure women can use the internet effectively.”
The report called for governments and companies to commit to tackling the digital gender divide in all its forms. This means investing in digital skills for women and girls, actively supporting women leaders in technology, and adopting targets to connect everyone to high-quality internet, with a specific focus on connecting women.