By Simon Poulter, Head of Corporate Public Relations, Alcatel-Lucent
To those of us living in fully developed economies, the idea of an emerging market is usually defined by rapid national growth, a burgeoning middle class, and new opportunities in new industries, but still some considerable residue of the conditions that once branded these countries as “under-developed”.
Which is why you might it find surprising to learn that one of the most populous emerging markets isn’t a country at all, but a gender. Last weekend, the Broadband Commission – the global initiative to promote digital connectivity which is backed by the UN’s International Telecommunications Union and member companies including Alcatel-Lucent – published a new report on the so-called digital divide, and estimates that there are 200 million fewer women with access to the Internet than men, a gap, the Commission warns, could grow to 350 million within the next three years.
Gabrielle Gauthey at the 8th Broadband Commission for Digital Development Meeting, New York, 21st September 2013 (Source: ITU)
The report, Doubling Digital Opportunities: Enhancing The Inclusion of Women & Girls In The Information Society, makes the stark claim – based on extensive research by UN agencies, Commission members, governments and business partners – that women are getting online later in life and more slowly than men. And that, says the Commission, makes women the most promising emerging market of all – if the right measures are taken to help it develop.
Today there are approximately 2.8 billion people around the world with access to the Internet – a figure that still falls short of the world’s total population of seven billion, but of that number, 1.5 billion Internet users are male and 1.3 billion are female. That 200 million shortfall becomes more dramatic when location is taken into account. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the gender gap is quite narrow in developed countries, but widens significantly in the developing world. In sub-Saharan Africa there are twice as many men online as women.