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Connecting more women and girls to the internet by 2020 could help lift millions out of poverty, ONE’s Making the Connection Report reveals

  • World leaders, governments, banks, telecom firms urged to connect 350m women and girls otherwise a generation is at risk of isolation from digital revolution
  • Africa’s limited connectivity highlights divide with rest of world – the continent uses the same amount of data in a week than Netflix subscribers use in a day
  • Digital chasm starkest for women who are denied online access because of their gender – yet when connected they propel development for everyone

A generation of women and girls will remain isolated from the global digital economy and miss an opportunity to escape poverty unless they are connected to the internet by 2020, the ONE Campaign warns today in its new report, Making the Connection.

More than half of the world (53% or 3.5 billion people) is still unconnected to the internet – a digital divide starkly illustrated by fact that the content streaming website Netflix uses as much data in a single day as the entire continent of Africa does in almost a week.

Strong digital infrastructures enable the internet to play a major role in our day-to-day lives, but in countries without easy access people are denied even the most basic benefits that the internet brings, such as education, health information and employment.

This problem is significantly worse for girls and women in the world’s poorest countries who are almost one third less likely to have access to the internet than men due to cultural, social and economic barriers. Analysis by ONE suggests that without immediate action over 71 percent of Africa’s girls and women will still not be online by 2020.

Universal internet access is an ambitious objective, but as Making the Connection concludes, it could be achieved with a plan and a concerted effort by those overseeing the digital revolution: governments, telecom firms and banks.

ONE’s Executive Director for Global Policy Eloise Todd said: “It is proven that when women and girls thrive, the benefits can underpin development for everyone in society. Those that already have access to networks communicate ideas and information. They set up businesses and use financial and government services that help them and their families, lead healthier, safer and more prosperous lives. That benefits everyone.

“Poverty is isolation – from communities, from knowledge, from economic opportunities. The internet is an opportunity to change that and help women and girls claim their right to education, employment and dignity.

“World leaders and donor governments plus telecoms and banks, need to partner up and invest in the nuts and bolts of connectivity, such as the ‘Dig Once’ policy where no new road in a developing country should be built without laying broadband cables with it.”

Making the Connection is being published during the Web Summit in Lisbon, Portugal (November 7-9th), where more than 40,000 tech CEOs, founders, start-ups, investors and political leaders ‘will gather to look for answers to the questions posed by the tech revolution we’re living through’.

ONE is calling on them and others in the development community to immediately implement an action plan to connect 350 million women and girls to the internet in the least developed countries by 2020, focussing on four key areas:

  • Invest in a digital skills revolution to ensure that women and girls have the skills to use the internet effectively.
  • Break down barriers to accessing the internet to ensure that women and girls have relevant content and can overcome cultural barriers that stop them accessing the internet.
  • Invest in open data on connectivity to highlight those who are unconnected and help bring accountability for commitments to connect them.
  • Build infrastructure for the digital future to ensure the most marginalised have access.

Today’s report follows on from the 2015 Connectivity Declaration signed by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Bill and Melinda Gates, Bono, Juliana Rotich, Jimmy Wales and many others in the tech and development sectors calling on the public and private sectors to work together to deliver universal internet access by 2020, as agreed in the Global Goals.


Notes to Editors

For copies of the Report and for exclusive interviews, please contact:  Peter Simpson in Lisbon on +44 (0)7881 370 441 / [email protected], and Chris Mitchell in London on +44 (0)20 3019 6607 / +44 (0)7901  006 799 /[email protected] 

Key findings and background statistics from Making the Connection

  • Analysis by ONE suggests that, given current trends of internet penetration, over 71% of Africa’s girls and women will still not be online by 2020 – pushing the connectivity gap between men and women to over 26%.
  • In the world’s poorest countries 75% of women and girls will still not be online by 2020.
  • 75% of Africa is offline.
  • 85% of people living in least developed countries (LDCs) are offline compared with 19% of those living in developed countries.
  • Women living in LDCs are 31% less likely than their male counterparts to be connected.
  • Today Netflix users consumed more data than the whole of Africa:
    • Subscribers of the content streaming service Netflix use as much data in a single day as Africa does in 6 days.

Web Summit Panel

On the morning of Tuesday 8th November ONE is hosting a panel at the Lisbon Web Summit to discuss the challenges girls and women face in getting connected. The panel will be moderated by ONE’s Chief Marketing Officer, Roxane Philson, and feature Gary Briggs, Chief Marketing Officer of Facebook, Zenia Tata, Executive Director of Global Development, XPRIZE, and Lara Setrakian, Co-founder of News Deeply.

Please note the panel is private and strictly by invitation only. However, exclusive interviews with ONE’s spokespeople – Roxane Philson (Chair of panel) and Dr David McNair (Report author), as well as with some of the panellists (TBC), are available either in person at the summit or via phone/skype.