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The global expansion and near ubiquity of the internet is now taken for granted in many spaces in upper- and middle-income countries. The number of internet users has more than tripled over the past decade—from 1 billion in 2005 to an estimated 3.2 billion at the end of 2015. Mobile phones are the most pervasive way for people to access the internet, and their use has spread through developed and developing countries alike.
However, this is still not the case for everyone. Nearly 2 billion people do not own a mobile phone, and nearly 60 percent of the world’s population has no access to the internet. The World Bank’s recent World Development Report 2016 (WDR) on “Digital Dividends” notes that “For digital technologies to benefit everyone everywhere requires closing the remaining digital divide, especially in internet access.”
Moreover, the digital divide within countries can be as high as that between countries, and one reason for that is that women are less likely than men to use or own digital technologies. According to a recent Pew Global Survey, “There are gender gaps on many aspects of technology use. For example, in 20 nations, men are more likely than women to use the internet. These differences are especially stark in African nations. Elsewhere, equal shares of men and women use the internet. But large gender gaps also appear on reported smartphone ownership (men are more likely to own a smartphone) in many countries, including Mexico (+16), Nigeria (+13), Kenya (+12) and Ghana (+12).”