Women are about 50 per cent more likely to be connected to the internet than men in the same age group with similar levels of education and household income, the Women Rights Online Research by Web Foundation said.
According to the research, the situation is even dire with less than 30 per cent of women living in the slums connected to the internet, compared to 57 per cent of men. The report, which sampled 19 countries put Kenya at 30 per cent overall score after using 14 indicators in 2015, with the grading conducted in first quarter of 2016.
What does this mean to women?
Women are locked out of opportunities and information, considering that only 25 per cent of them were able to use the internet to discover details about their rights. The lack of digital skills also means that women are not able to access online services and opportunities, which leads to further disempowerment in their daily lives.
According to the report, one of the reasons women were not able to go online is because of the ‘unrealistic’ cost of connection. Women have also been prone to online violence, which also keeps them offline. More than one in five Kenyan women surveyed reported having experienced online harassment. This means that they are not free to expand their voices and choices using the internet thus unable to take on new opportunities for the same.
The level at which women can use the internet is seen in the use of mobile financial services, where Kenya had a high score at 55 percent.
The onus now falls on the government to come up with policies that will make it easier for women to access the internet and training in ICT skills. The report recommends the prioritisation of internet infrastructure improvement to ensure 100 per cent coverage. The state also needs to improve affordability:
“Work with mobile operators and Internet Service Providers to lower tariffs. Free public Wi-Fi initiatives should be scaled and offered in all public places including schools,” the report added.
Other recommendations included the provision of digital educations in all schools and communities. This includes the expansion of training program to primary schools, with the government providing free or subsidized digital skills training and development.
To ensure proper participation of citizens in online spaces, the government ought to develop relevant content by updating websites regularly, by offering services online and by engaging leaders and citizens.
But best of all, the government ought to end online gender-based violence, which is a key concern for women. It should ensure that there are platforms on which women can take action against perpetrators of online violence as well as expand legal framework on violence against women.
With these measures in place, the 30 per cent score will increase and gender gap will also be reduced in all sectors.