Intel is calling for more support to help double the number of women accessing the net in developing countries, in a bid to boost job prospects and drive economies.
In a report, which was compiled from surveys and interviews with around 2,200 women in Mexico, Egypt, India and Uganda, the chipmaker found that many women in these countries already depend on the internet to find and apply for jobs, so increasing access could help boost the economy.
However, Intel, which carried out the report with the United Nations and the US State Department, found that women in these areas were not using the internet to its full potential, with only a quarter going online compared to men.
This gave rise to a “second digital divide” that needs to be closed, the company said.
According to Intel, there are a number of reasons for this. Firstly, women themselves did not think it was “appropriate” for them to access the net, as a result of the cost involved in getting connected. Illiteracy among women, as well as lack of awareness of the changes that being connected could make, were also cited as factors.
The report, according to Reuters, said that although 600 million women in developing countries – around 21 percent – were already online, with a further 450 million expected to join them by 2016, more could be done to increase this figure by 150 million.
To do this, the chip maker is calling for change in women’s online behaviour over the next three years. It wants technology companies to get involved, calling on them to make internet access easier, and in some cases free, on mobile phones.
Policymakers are also been called upon to increase digital literacy among women.
Despite 79 percent of people in the US having access to the internet, compared to 11 percent of men and women in India, Intel said there was still a gap when it came to internet access in rural American areas.
Shelly Esque, a vice president for the chipmaker and president of its educational foundation, said that the internet was a key technology and knowing how to use it is vital. Esque cited the Egypt uprising as an area where access to information online can mean a world of difference.
Intel also believes that women having increased access to the internet could add between $50 billion and $70 billion in potential new market opportunities.