From plan to exercise: Bridging the electronic divide

As we rejoice International Women’s Day 2023 with the theme of “DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality”, it is important to replicate on the progress Bangladesh has designed towards attaining gender equality but also on the difficulties that continue to be. A person of these difficulties is the persistent digital divide, which disproportionately has an effect on women of all ages in a lot of components of the environment. 

However, as I had the chance to find out although networking with females from all more than the world at an international women’s meeting a short while ago, electronic technological know-how is proving to be a impressive device for eliminating the limitations of gender inequality and discrimination. With the basic simply click of a button, each gentlemen and females are capable to access new prospects and resources. Absent are the times when actual physical skills gave adult men benefits and girls cons. 

In this article, we will delve into plan recommendations and methods forward to increase women’s access to digital engineering, increase their digital literacy, and go in the direction of a additional equitable digital landscape.

Bangladesh has several national guidelines to boost digital equality for gals. The Nationwide Electronic Commerce Policy 2018 encourages the development of digital marketplaces and on the net payment methods for females-owned businesses. The Nationwide ICT Policy 2018 recognises the need to address the gender electronic divide and promote women’s digital techniques and literacy. 

The Nationwide Females Progress Policy 2011 indicates leveraging technological innovation to advertise gender equality. The Entry to Information and facts (a2i) Programme contains initiatives to boost women’s entry to digital know-how and boost their electronic capabilities and literacy. These policies goal to boost women’s participation in the electronic financial state.

According to a joint Time Use Survey report 2021 (revealed in June 2022) by the Bangladesh Bureau of Stats and UN Females Bangladesh, only 21.25 % of online buyers in Bangladesh are gals, even though men account for 35.15 %. 

On top of that, the gender gap was also obvious in cellular telephone utilization, as the survey discovered that only 59.92% of women of all ages respondents owned a cellular cellular phone, compared to 86.1 % of gentlemen. In accordance to the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Fee (BTRC), roughly 12.38 crore men and women use the world-wide-web in the region. 

Out of these, 4.88 crore are girls and 7.5 crore are men. 

It is rather impressive how in a 12 months, the gender divide in web use seems to have flipped. In accordance to the November 2022 publication by the Bangladesh Bureau of Studies on Survey on ICT Use and Accessibility by Men and women and Homes 2022, a greater proportion of ladies (68.9 %) in comparison to men (67.7 %) use the world wide web at least as soon as a working day. 

When this is undoubtedly beneficial information, a single can not assist but speculate what the important modifications in internet use behaviour among the populace, particularly between gals, had been. Even further research may possibly be essential to have an understanding of the reasons guiding this shift and to make certain that women’s online obtain and use carry on to increase in the potential.

To bridge the current digital divide, to start with, we have to make sure very affordable world wide web and products and services. BTRC has a policy of – A person Nation 1 Level 5 Mbps online for Tk500 per month might however be highly-priced for a lot of women of all ages and women in Bangladesh. Here are some policy recommendations for decreasing the cost of internet expert services in Bangladesh:

Setting a new cost ceiling for cellular world-wide-web: The govt can regulate the costs of world-wide-web solutions by environment a ceiling price tag for web products and services or by necessitating web support vendors to give discounted costs to low-money homes. Through the Covid-19 pandemic, as universities and universities shifted to on the net courses, quite a few college students from rural parts in Bangladesh faced troubles due to the high cost of cellular world wide web. 

As a particular experience, when teaching on the web classes for Northern University Bangladesh, I witnessed the struggles of rural college students who typically had to obtain costly 2-3 day net packages to attend classes via Zoom. They even requested the rescheduling of classes to fit in just these constrained web offers to steer clear of incurring extra fees. This highlights the urgent want to address the difficulty of high priced cell net in rural regions to assure equivalent access to on the web education for all.

General public Wi-Fi in girls’ faculties/faculties/establishments: The government can commit in community Wi-Fi infrastructure in urban and rural locations, specially in establishments with a large focus of gals and ladies. This would offer them with no cost accessibility to the net, which would assist to minimize the cost of world wide web solutions for those who are unable to afford to pay for them. Rural girls’ colleges, faculties, and education institutes can be a great start out. 

Community-Personal Partnership: The govt could lover with non-public sector businesses to deliver discounted or no cost net providers to women of all ages and women institutes. All through the pandemic, the main telecoms experienced taken up momentary projects of offering college students absolutely free internet for education and learning. This could be an ongoing project in women’s institutions through company social obligation initiatives or general public-private partnerships.

Tax incentives: The govt could present tax incentives to internet service providers who give discounted premiums to very low-money households or who make investments in community Wi-Fi infrastructure. The Countrywide Board of Revenue (NBR) has imposed a 15% VAT on notebook imports, a 10% progress revenue tax on broadband world-wide-web assistance and a 5% VAT on cellular phone revenue. 

Reducing taxes on mobile devices and cellular world-wide-web companies can be a major step in direction of making certain inexpensive and obtainable digital engineering for rural women and female pupils. As most of them count on mobile devices for internet access, reducing taxes can help them to accessibility cheaper cell internet products and services, generating it a lot easier for them to link with the world, entry online education and learning, and improve their corporations. 

This policy suggestion highlights the great importance of earning electronic equipment and net expert services far more inexpensive in rural Bangladesh to bridge the digital divide and empower girls. The much more price tag-productive these assets come to be, the far more obtainable they will be for gals, which can lead to greater digital inclusion and participation in the electronic economic system.

Addressing capability making is important to bridge the digital divide and empower gals in Bangladesh. The plan advice is as follows:

Group-focused F-commerce-primarily based initiatives: Women’s groups or cooperatives have to have coaching and help to regulate and run group-primarily based internet entry initiatives correctly. The govt could provide capability-creating options this kind of as education on online service provision, administration, and financial management. 

As per my experience of functioning with females-led CMSMEs from rural Bangladesh, it is clear that they involve much more information and training on social media advertisement, buyer profiling, focused advertising, and other suitable digital advertising abilities. These abilities are essential for the growth and accomplishment of their corporations in an increasingly digital earth. 

According to the National Talent Progress Plan 14.5. a – The participation of women of all ages in techniques improvement programmes federal government will be elevated by supplying a broader vary of traditional & non-common abilities schooling courses that could boost the employability of women. As a result, women-led CMSMEs have no coverage obstacles to avail coaching on F-commerce.

Set up electronic literacy centres in the existing TVET centres: The authorities may possibly established up digital literacy centres in rural parts exactly where females-led CMSMEs can entry training, equipment, and means to develop their electronic internet marketing techniques. These centres could offer education on a selection of subject areas, this kind of as working with social media, website structure and e-commerce. 

Leveraging present Specialized & Vocational Schooling & Instruction centres to give digital advertising education to girls-led CMSMEs is a sensible and price-effective resolution to empower women of all ages entrepreneurs in rural Bangladesh.

Accessibility to technological innovation through gear grants/shared amenities: Most women of all ages entrepreneurs will not have accessibility to the know-how and machines vital to market their products and products and services on social media successfully. The authorities could provide entry to technological innovation as a result of gear grants or by creating shared amenities where ladies can entry technological know-how methods.

Tools grants can be an efficient way to deliver obtain to technological know-how for girls business owners in rural areas to invest in vital gear these kinds of as smartphones, laptops, and cameras. 

The government can supply grants to digital literacy centres as an alternative of individual grants to bridge the electronic divide. These centres can order equipment that women of all ages-led CMSMEs can entry to improve their digital literacy and skills. These centres could be geared up with desktops, cameras, and other engineering essential for social media advertising and marketing and could also offer teaching and technical assist for females-led CMSMEs.

Additional Guidelines can be suggested to deal with the electronic divide in Bangladesh, such as a lot easier copyright security, simplifying the procedure of obtaining trade licences, and addressing cultural attitudes toward girls in electronic spheres and girls in STEM. 

In conclusion, bridging the electronic divide and empowering females in rural regions of Bangladesh necessitates a multifaceted solution. Addressing these issues will not only gain women of all ages but also promote economic progress and sustainable growth. 

We should recognise that the electronic divide is an possibility divide and operate in the direction of creating equivalent opportunities for all. By investing in electronic inclusion, Bangladesh can leverage its digital prospective and realize its vision of turning into a developed country by 2041.


Ishrat Binte Rouf is the Lead of Programmes, GenLab ( a youth-led assume & do tank).

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this posting are those people of the writer and do not automatically mirror the opinions and sights of The Organization Common.


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