A Human Rights-Based Approach to Bridge Gender Digital Divide: The Case Study of India

A Human Rights-Based Approach to Bridge Gender Digital Divide: The Case Study of India

Ching Yuen Luk (Nanyang Technological University, Singapore)
Copyright: © 2019 |Pages: 21
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-7068-4.ch002


Using India as a case study, this chapter examines four elements of gender digital divide, the causes of gender digital divide, and ways to bridge gender digital divide. It finds that girls and women do not have equal access to the internet and mobile technologies like men do. This is due to social norms favoring men in the distribution of resources and opportunities, women's lack of the economic means, and ineffective law enforcement. This study calls for a human rights-based approach to bridge gender digital divide, which emphasizes women's rights to ICT-related education and training, internet privacy and freedom of expression, and mobile phone ownership.
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Gender digital divide refers to the inequalities between men and women in terms of access to ICTs. According to Van Dijk (2004), digital divide can be understood as inequalities in four types of access: (a) mental access which refers to lack of elementary digital experience due to anxiety or lack of interest; (b) material access which refers to no possession of computers and network connections; (c) skills access which refers to inadequate education or social support; and (d) usage access which refers to lack of significant usage opportunities (p.160). Gender digital divide is a serious problem in developing countries where girls and women lack access to computers, the Internet and mobile technologies. The exclusion of women from ICTs adversely affect their self-confidence, social and economic status and capacity-building opportunities. The problem of gender digital divide continues to capture worldwide attention. According to a recently published report, less than one third of India’s Internet users were female (UNICEF, 2017). There are some social, cultural and economic reasons attributed to gender digital divide in India, such as social norms favouring men in the distribution of resources and opportunities and women’s lack of the economic means. Gender digital divide has put women in a very disadvantageous position in terms of educational opportunity, economic opportunity, earnings potentials and peer connections. For married women, gender digital divide may also adversely affect their children’s welfare and development outcomes due to limited employment opportunities and lower income level. Gender digital divide has been a long-standing problem in India that deserves an in-depth analysis.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Telecentre: A public access point where people have access to computers and the internet.

Diktat: A harsh decree imposed on society without popular consent.

Social Norms: Unspoken rules of behaviors that are considered acceptable in a group or society.

Moral Panic: Public fear in response to a condition or an issue which is perceived as a threat to societal values.

Gender Digital Divide: The inequalities between men and women in terms of access to information and communications technologies.

Literacy Rate: The percentage of the population that is able to read and write.

Cyber Abuse: Any harassment that is carried out using the internet, mobile technologies, or other digital devices.

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