Last year, Facebook touched 125 million users in India, making our country the second largest global market for the social media giant. However, when we look at the data closely, it is appalling to note that of this large user base, 76% are males, and only 24% are females. While overall social media usage in the country has grown by 23% since March 2015, this gender gap in the usage of internet is a factor which seems to be an ever growing concern, and all kinds of data seems to support this.
In March 2016, a report from the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) found that females made up only 35% of the mobile internet user base in India. In a report released June 2016, the GSM Association a global association of mobile operators found Indian males to be 62% more likely to be internet users than females. In 2015, 114 million fewer women than men owned a mobile phone in India, according to global mobile industry monitor GSM Association. Another abysmal finding is that at a time when over a billion Facebook users access the site via mobile, 81% of Indian women have never accessed the internet on their phones.
Indian society restricts the role of women in many different spheres, and going by the data, the world of internet has adopted this misogyny. According to GSMA, Indian women are more likely to “borrow” phones from friends and family than own their own device. There is also a fear factor associated with the internet, especially in context of trolling and cyber abuse.
Identifying the factors that could be the possible blockages for the women and girls to use the Internet or the reasons for them to shy away from it, will definitely help individual and organizational influencers to either change the way Internet is looked at, or bring in the desired controls for the user’s convenience. As it is estimated that 450 million new women users (Source: Women and the Web, a report by Intel) are expected to come online, it is time to identify, rectify and present Internet as a platform that empowers rather than an accessible tool for criminal activities.
At CSR, we have initiated programmes like #SocialSurfing and #TweeSurfing to address the negativity which comes with the virtual world becoming more real. We had also conducted a session at the 60th CSW this year in New York on the issue of “Access is Empowerment“. We have been witness to the fact that while primitive and regressive ideas like patriarchy, racism, and other discriminating power structures are an irrefutable part of our society, they are also being observed in the online world. Thus, it is important to create online spaces which are safe and secure, and encouraging of women’s participation, to ensure that the internet world is beneficial to all genders.
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