Internet Access in Developing Countries: A Tool for Sustainability
A large percentage of people in the developed world take technologies such as computers and smartphones for granted.

The average American spends nearly 24 hours a week on the internet, which is an increase of 250 percent from internet usage in the year 2000. In contrast, over 4 billion people in the world are without internet access. Out of this number, 20 countries account for 75 percent of the people without internet access. 

The internet can have positive effects on those living in developing countries. However, it is often not the first thing on the list of necessary improvements. Many communities look to more immediate requirements, such as increased access to health care and basic necessities like food and clean water. 

In 2000, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), held a forum to discuss the changes beginning to occur in the world, including the increasing prevalence of the internet in many countries. Since then, the usefulness, and what is often viewed as a necessity, of the internet has spread across the globe but still fails to reach the world’s population in its entirety. 

Barriers to Internet Implementation

It is estimated that 90 percent of people who live in the Least Developed Countries (categorized by U.N.) are without internet access. In many developing countries, a large portion of the population lives in rural areas, where the cost for internet providers to provide access has not always outweighed the potential benefits to the provider.

Beyond the logistical difficulties with providing internet access in developing countries is the task of breaching the language barrier present in technology and online communications.

As the majority of the world using the internet on a daily basis are speakers of only a small number of languages, those in developing countries, particularly Asian and African countries that often have incredible linguistic diversity within the countries themselves, are often unable to fully benefit from the information and communication provided by internet access.

In fact, it is estimated that only 5 percent of worldwide languages are used on the internet. National languages with many speakers such as Hindi and Swahili are used by less than 0.1 percent of the world’s 10 million most popular websites. 

Positive Aspects of the Internet

However, the goal of internet access in developing countries remains extremely important. Those in the developing world with internet access are given an essential tool for sustainable economic growth. The educational and social benefits, as well as general information provided by internet access in developing countries, assists in decision making that has to potential to positively impact the entire community. 

Internet access in developing countries can specifically benefit women in those countries, as educating girls and women has a great impact on poverty eradication and overall development. The education young women receive, not only in terms of technical schooling but on their bodies and health care, results in more healthy, independent and confident women that can contribute to the local and global economy in a more efficient way.

Additionally, internet access in developing countries promotes education for both men and women concerning technology, a field that has vast potential for professional and economic advancements. Studies suggest that women across the developing world are disproportionately affected by a digital gap and that bringing an additional 600 million women online would contribute from $13 to $18 billion to annual GDP across 144 developing countries.

Internet Kiosks

In 2006, one solution for addressing the digital gap in developing countries was implemented. In India, internet kiosks were set up in rural locations, providing those previously without internet access a low-cost opportunity. This provides community access rather than individual internet access.

One key aspect of internet kiosks are the services they offer. Since they are tailored for rural areas, the needs of the rural population are reflected in their services: providing access to land records, government services and related forms and health, as well as the educational and agricultural information that allow users assistance which is more prevalent in their location and livelihoods.

These kiosks also provide connections between communities through online communication, giving those who previously did not have access to a large portion of the world the ability to engage and be included in the social and educational aspects of today’s world. 

The U.S. is well aware of the problem with the lack of internet access in developing countries. For this reason, Digital Global Access Policy Act of 2018 was presented for a goal of promoting internet access in developing countries and update foreign policy toward the Internet. This Act has yet to pass the Senate and the President before officially implemented.

For the direct contact of the Congress regarding this and many other topics, readers can always use the official site of The Borgen Project, more specifically this link.

– Anna Lally

Photo: Flickr

Examples of Gender Inequality

The fight for gender equality is an ongoing struggle for men and women throughout the world. Many aspects of gender inequality are events that men will never face, but that constantly shape women’s mental health and opportunities. Listed here are the top 10 examples of gender inequality found in the daily lives of women across the globe.

10 Examples of Gender Inequality

  1. Infant Life Expectancy: In India and China, the two most populous nations in the world, there is significant data that shows a survival disadvantage for girls under five years of age. In China, girls have a seven percent higher infant mortality rate than boys, and in India, a study conducted in the first decade of the 2000s found that the risk of death between the ages of one and five was 75 percent higher for girls than for boys.
  2. Access to Prenatal Care and Maternal Mortality: As of 2017, there are 1.6 billion women of reproductive age in the developing world. Of the 127 million women who gave birth in 2017, just 63 percent received a minimum of four antenatal care visits and only 72 percent gave birth in a health facility. Among women who experienced medical complications during pregnancy or delivery, only one in three received the care they or their newborns needed.

    In 2017, an estimated 308,000 women in developing nations died from pregnancy-related causes and 2.7 million babies died in their first month of life. Many of these deaths could have been prevented with full access to healthcare.
  3. Education: Less than 40 percent of countries offer girls and boys equal access to education and only 39 percent of countries have equal proportions of the sexes enrolled in secondary education. By achieving universal primary and secondary education attainability in the adult population, it could be possible to lift more than 420 million people out of poverty. This would have its greatest effect on women and girls who are the most likely to never have stepped foot inside a school.

    Even once girls are attending school, discrimination follows. One in four girls states that they never feel comfortable using school latrines. Girls are at greater risk of sexual violence, harassment and exploitation in school. School-related gender-based violence is another major obstacle to universal schooling and the right to education for girls.
  4. Illiteracy: There are approximately 774 million illiterate adults in the world and two-thirds of them are women. There are approximately 123 million illiterate youths and 61 percent of them are girls. Women’s share in the illiterate population has not budged in 20 years. These facts not only affect women but their children as well. A child born to a mother with the ability to read is 50 percent more likely to survive past age five.
  5. Economic Independence: Increases in female labor force participation result in faster economic growth, but women continue to participate in labor markets on an unequal basis with men. In 2013, the male employment-to-population ratio was 72.2 percent compared to 47.1 percent for women, and women continue to earn only 60-75 percent of men’s wages globally. It is estimated that women’s income could increase globally up to 76 percent if the employment participation gap between men and women was closed, which could have a global value of $17 trillion.

    Women also carry a disproportionate amount of responsibility for unpaid care work. Women devote one to three hours more a day to housework than men, two to 10 times the amount of time a day to care (for children, elderly and the sick) and one to four hours less a day to income-based activities. The time given to these unpaid tasks directly and negatively impacts women’s participation in the workforce and their ability to foster economic independence.
  6. Violence Against Women, Sexual Assault and Rape: The mental health effects of sexual assault and rape can have jarring results on women’s stability and livelihoods. Women who have experienced sexual or physical abuse at the hands of their partners are twice as likely to have an abortion, almost twice as likely to have depression and, in some regions, 1.5 times more likely to acquire HIV compared with women who have not experienced partner violence.

    The prevalence of sexual assault and violence against women is deep and systemic, making it one of the most important examples of gender inequality. Worldwide, around 120 million girls, a number which represents slightly more than one in 10, have experienced forced intercourse or another forced sexual act in their lifetime.
  7. Female Genital Mutilation: At least 200 million women and girls alive today have undergone female genital mutilation. In most of these cases, the majority of girls were cut before age five. In these instances, proper anesthesia is rarely used or is ineffective, causing severe pain. Excessive bleeding is also possible, resulting from the accidental cutting of the clitoral artery or other blood vessels during the procedure. Chronic genital infections, reproductive tract infections and urinary tract infections are common.Female genital mutilation is also associated with an increased risk of Caesarean section, postpartum hemorrhage and extended maternal hospital stay. All of these subsequent complications along with the shock and use of physical force during the procedure are some of the many reasons why survivors describe the experience as an extremely traumatic event.
  8. Child Marriage: Globally, almost 750 million women and girls alive today married before their eighteenth birthday. Those who suffer from child marriage often experience early pregnancy which is a key factor in the premature end of education. As mothers and wives, girls become socially isolated and are at an increased risk for domestic violence. Child marriage is one the most devastating examples of gender inequality, as it limits women’s opportunities and their ability to reach their full individual potential.
  9. Human Trafficking: Adult women and girls account for 71 percent of all human trafficking victims detected globally. Girls alone represent nearly three out of every four children trafficked. Women and girls are clearly the disproportionate victims of human trafficking with 75 percent trafficked for the purpose of sexual exploitation.
  10. Representation in Government: As of June 2016, only 22.8 percent of all national parliamentarians were women. There is growing evidence that women in positions of leadership and political decision-making improve the systems in which they work.

These are 10 of the countless ways in which women are oppressed, abused and neglected. These top ten examples of gender inequality cannot begin to do justice to the discrimination and obstacles that women around the world face each day. Women’s rights are human rights and affect every person in every community.

– Carolina Sherwood Bigelow

Photo: Flickr