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The gender gap and the digital divide

24 May 2012 Inderscience

Researchers in Spain have developed a new analytical system that allows them to assess the gender gap in the adoption of information and communications technology (ICT). They have used their approach to publish a ranking of 31 European nations in the International Journal of Society Systems Science.

Juan Martín Fernández and José Luis Martínez Cantos of the Universidad Complutense de Madrid, explain that while policies aimed at improved gender equality have moved forward in recent years, little research exists as to whether there is a gender gap to coincide with the digital divide between those who use and benefit from ICT and those who do not. With this in mind, the team has developed the Gender & ICT Indicators System, GICTIS, to allow a quantitative and a qualitative assessment of ICT use to be made and so reveal any gender inequalities that might be addressed by new policy at the national and European level.

The well-known Global Gender Gap Index (GGGI) developed by the World Economic Forum highlights four specific areas for assessing and addressing gender inequality: economic participation and opportunities, educational attainment, health and survival and political empowerment. There are various other indices that add and combine many other factors to put a figure on inequality, even in the area of ICT, but the latter has not been seriously considered in the context of gender until now.

Martín and Martínez have investigated ICT use by men and women- computer use, internet access, online banking and e-commerce, use in healthcare and wellbeing and other generic uses - and assigned each aspect of ICT use a variable that can be appropriately weighted and fed into their model to generate a useful index of access and engagement with ICT. The resulting GICTIS Index synthesises all of the information and allows the researchers to uncover gender inequalities based on assessment of ICT use, intensity of use and how this related to gender.

The top ten nations ranked by e-equality are: Iceland, Hungary, Latvia, France, Slovenia, Finland. Belgium, Denmark, Norway and Lithuania. The UK is below the mean average at number 18 in the ranking, Germany 24th and Greece last at number 31.

The team summarises the complete list as follows. There is a high level of ICT use with high e-equality in Northern Europe (Iceland, Finland, Norway, Denmark and Sweden), France, Slovenia and to a lesser extent Holland. There is high use in Luxembourg, Germany and the UK but these nations have low e-equality. Hungary, Malta, Portugal and Slovakia have a medium level of use and e-equality. There is low ICT use in Romania, Czech Republic, Bulgaria and to a lesser extent Poland and Belgium but these countries have high e-equality. Southern Europe (Greece, Cyprus, Macedonia, Croatia and to a lesser extent Italy and Spain) and Ireland has low use and low e-equality.

"The Scandinavian countries serve as an unavoidable European benchmark for political and social action to promote equality between women and men in ICT," the team concludes.

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