* 21 percent of women in developing world use Internet now
* Internet access crucial for income, equity - report
* Boost could yield $50 bln-$70 bln in market opportunities
By Susan Heavey
WASHINGTON, Jan 10 More needs to be done to
boost women's and girl's lagging online access, tech giant Intel
Corp said in a report to be released later on Thursday
that calls for doubling the number of female Internet users in
developing nations over the next three years.
The report, funded by the global chipmaker with input from
the United Nations and U.S. State Department, among others,
points to stubborn gaps in women's access to the Internet in
Africa, the Middle East and other developing parts of the world.
It found women are nearly 25 percent less likely than men to
be online in those regions, and called on policymakers and
technology companies to take steps such as making it easier to
access the Internet on mobile phones, allowing free mobile
content and boosting digital literacy to shrink the gap.
Surveys and interviews with more than 2,200 women and girls
focused on four developing countries - Egypt, India, Mexico and
Uganda - found that Internet access was critical for women to
earn more money or search and apply for jobs.
"With the powerful capabilities the Internet enables - to
connect, to learn, to engage, to increase productivity, and to
find opportunities - women's lack of access is giving rise to a
second digital divide, one where women and girls risk being left
further and further behind," said Melanne Verveer, ambassador
for global women's issues at the State Department.
Although the United States and other developed nations see
fairly high levels of overall Internet access and usage among
women, some gaps remain, mostly in rural areas or among the
In the developing world, however, the gap is far wider.
Just 11 percent of men and women in India have Internet
access compared to 79 percent in the United States, said Shelly
Esque, a vice president for the chipmaker and president of its
Thursday's report shows 600 million women in developing
nations, or 21 percent, are online now, and another 450 million
are expected to gain Internet access by 2016. But taking extra
steps could help bring an additional 150 million women and girls
online over the next three years, the report said.
GOOD FOR GLOBAL ECONOMY
Esque pointed to the role technology played in the Arab
Spring revolts, particularly in Egypt.
"Information was such a powerful tool," she told Reuters.
"What would be the potential for a country like that if they
were able to have more equal access? We need to work on that."
A U.N. Human Rights Council resolution last year recognized
the power of the Internet to spur progress and encouraged
countries to promote and facilitate access to it.
Still, many women surveyed by Intel cited barriers ranging
from the belief that Internet use was not "appropriate" for them
to the cost of getting connected. Illiteracy and lack of
awareness about potential uses also were factors.
Increased access would not only improve women's lives but
also boost the global economy, according to Intel's report.
It would add between $50 billion and $70 billion in
potential new market opportunities, the report said. It could
also bring another $13 billion to $18 billion each year globally
to the market value of goods and services - a measure known as
gross domestic product or GDP.
The findings by the Santa Clara, California-based company
aim to encourage other technology companies, policymakers and
nongovernmental groups to take steps to get more women and girls
online, it said.
"Without access to the Internet, women lack access to its
tools, resources and opportunities," the report said. "This gap
disadvantages not just women, but their families, communities