1.3 Why is it important to reach women and girls?

The simple answer to this question is that women and girls need to be deliberately selected as an audience because they still make up the larger proportion of those left behind – whether in literacy education, access to information, health or financial services, or general socio-economic empowerment. Women and girls still make up the bulk of the illiterate population across the world, and are more likely to suffer deep marginalization in conservative societies that limit their mobility and voice.

In addition to the digital divide between developed and developing regions, an ongoing gender divide persists, where women and girls have less access to ICTs than do men and boys. There are many reasons for this, ranging from outright gender discrimination to limitations in physical location or the reality that often women have less free time or disposable income. Women and girls from marginalized communities tend to be especially less engaged. Biases still exist within many social and cultural norms globally. Technology is sometimes considered to be interesting only to boys and men. Or, women are inaccurately thought to be uninterested or unable to learn how to use computer technologies. More often, low levels of literacy and overall education is a key barrier, while lack of freedom and control can also constrain access. Annex I presents a range of data that show differences in accessing the Internet between men and women on a country-level and on a global level. 

If women remain excluded from ICT knowledge and services, they will become increasingly marginalized, the gender gap will grow, and many of the secondary benefits to be gained from women’s empowerment and gender equality will fail to materialize. Community ICT centers can counter this prevailing negative trend. If planned and executed properly, community ICT centers can be an effective vehicle to help women acquire literacy skills, numeracy skills, and resources to help them to start and build their own businesses, secure their livelihoods and become socially and politically active.

Promoting gender equality through increasing access to ICTs can strengthen women’s and girls’ access to, and generation of, information, despite the mobility and cultural restrictions they face. They can broaden their skills and, subsequently, their economic activities. Such skills allow women to explore and pursue new business opportunities, to establish enterprises of their own, to enter new markets that require capital investments and to access a range of resources, including micro-financing. Sections 3.2, 3.4 and Chapter 4 draw these links further.

Fact of interest: ICTs and adolescent girls’ assets
PLAN Canada3 cites seven reasons why access to technology can counter gender inequality and build girls’ assets:
  1. To keep in touch with others, reducing girls’ isolation in countries where this is an issue;
  2. To increase education and ability to acquire new skills;
  3. To allow girls to take an active role in their communities and countries;
  4. To increase their skills to find employment;
  5. To build specific skills and knowledge on subjects they might otherwise not know about, such as HIV/AIDs;
  6. To build self-esteem (by learning how to use technology); and
  7. To increase safety.


3Plan International (2010) Because I am a Girl