Anyone who doesn’t understand how truly empowering digital fluency can be for women needs only to visit the journalists from the local languages all-woman rural newspaper ‘Khabar Lahariya’ published in Madhya Pradesh, to see how confidently they handle computers and smartphones so they can take their journalism to all rural women in the state.
But though the story of the Khabar Lehariya journalists as detailed on FactorDaily.com is feel-good and inspiring, the truth is that Indian women rank the lowest in the world in digital fluency, according to a report recently released by consulting company Accenture
“In terms of digital fluency, women in the US are the most advanced, but India falls behind even Saudi Arabia, Mexico and the Philippines, and is last on the list behind Indonesia”
Though the report did not explain why this is so, it’s easy to figure out the reasons. We can partly blame India’s khap panchayats that know full well that to allow a woman a smartphone means that women will do the unthinkable – actually become equal in gender to men. And partly it’s because even urban women in India tend to underestimate their ability to grasp technology.
This is unfortunate because according to Accenture’s Digital Fluency Model that surveyed about 5,000 women and men across 31 countries, the gender gap in education and the workplace will narrow faster than earlier predicted if women are comfortable with digital technology.
“If governments and businesses can double the pace at which women become digitally fluent, we could reach gender equality in the workplace by 2040 in developed nations and by 2060 in developing nations”
Digital fluency, says the report, “Is helping today’s workers better manage their time and become more productive. Digital fluency also enables greater work flexibility – an amenity that workers value and companies are now providing. While men and women alike are liberated by the balance that work flexibility affords, women appear to derive greater value from it.”
Here are some of Accenture’s key findings as detailed in its report:
- Because women are underrepresented in the workplace in most countries, they are a significant source of untapped talent
- Nations with higher rates of digital fluency among women have higher rates of overall gender equality
- 61 per cent of women in emerging markets aim to start their own businesses in the next five years. Just 29 per cent of women in developed markets aim to do the same
- More 60 per cent of women currently not working said they would gladly join the workforce if they could be entrepreneurs
- 58 per cent of women currently not working said working from home part time or all the time would help them find work; 60 per cent said more flexible hours would help them find work
- Nearly three quarters of all men and all women agree that “the digital world will empower our daughters”
“Increasing women’s access to the Internet as a first step to improving fluency should help open up new work opportunities”
- In terms of digital fluency, women in the US are the most advanced, but Indian women fall behind even Saudi Arabia, Mexico and the Philippines, and are last on the list behind Indonesia
- 72 per cent and 68 per cent of women and men respondents to the survey said that women’s employment opportunities increase as their digital fluency increases
- Almost half of all working women across the countries surveyed said they use digital to work from home and access job opportunities
In Indonesia and India, low levels of digital fluency are hindering the progress of women, says Accenture’s report. It says: “Increasing women’s access to the Internet as a first step to improving fluency should help open up new work opportunities.”
Cheers to that.