Recent research indicates that nearly 25 percent fewer women have access to the Internet. The ability to get online will give women access to information and resources beyond the limits of their immediate community: education programs ranging from basic literacy to advanced degree programs; health and women’s reproductive information; parenting techniques and, most importantly, job and career information.
How the Internet can improve women’s lives
As a woman with a family and a full time career in the high tech industry, I have a front row seat to the positive changes the Internet has brought to our lives. I can order groceries from a website and have them delivered to my home, search for a new job online and connect with friends and family from across the globe.
The economic impact of having the Internet at home, on my mobile devices and at work is significant. I can be more productive using my computer to work; I have a wider network of colleagues using social, alumni and professional networks; I’m able to be a smarter consumer by researching purchases and investment opportunities; and potentially I can learn to be a better parent, simply by accessing the wealth of information available online.
More so than ever, women are poised and ready to take on the next wave of change.
Increasing the number of women online is a potential global economic game changer
There is still room for improvement; Internet access is not widely available in some of the developing countries, especially in rural areas, but all signs point to the inevitability and the economic benefit of pressuring governments and communities to embrace getting online.
A new report from Intel and World Pulse describes both the current sad state of Internet access for women around the world (on average nearly 25 percent fewer women than men have access to the Internet) and an exciting proposed initiative to address it.
We know getting women Internet access is a game changer. The ability to get online will give women access to information and resources beyond the limits of their immediate community: education programs ranging from basic literacy to advanced degree programs; health and women’s reproductive information; parenting techniques and, most importantly, job and career information.
Cyber safety is a natural women’s issue
With the anticipated increase in these new Internet users, Internet safety education must be a key component. We know that the more time you spend online, the more varied the sites you visit, the higher at risk you are for online victimisation. Women are at risk of being targets for dating scams, online stalking, and other serious online threats like credit card fraud during online shopping, malware and other cybercrimes.
According to the 2012 Norton Cybercrime Report, 5.4 million Australian adults experienced cybercrime between 2011 and 2012. Some countries in the region such as Korea, Japan and Singapore have the highest broadband and Internet penetration rate in the world, and with the changing nature of cybercrime on mobile and social platforms, women need to be extra careful to protect themselves from become a cybercrime victim.
Women as the backbone of the family unit are in a terrific position to help guide their children on proper and safe computer use and Internet access. Too often, mothers may feel their children know more about the Internet than they do, so they don’t get involved in setting limits or teaching their children the principles of Internet safety. As new threats such as cyberbullying emerge, women are looking for ways to teach their children that the same offline rules apply in the online world such as respect for others, to treat people with kindness and to refrain from doing something you wouldn’t want others to do to you. They also need to be on the lookout for signs of cyberbullying to make sure their child is neither the victim nor the bully.
The importance of cyber-empowerment in the digital era
As we gather as a global community to recognise and celebrate International Women’s Day, we should continue this discussion of empowering women both offline and online, and pushing for more Internet access for women across the world. The economic connection is there. The Intel study proposes bringing government, technology companies and women together to expand women’s Internet access around the world. The study reports this could lead to economic opportunities of USD$50 to $70 billion.
As Internet access increases, there are simple steps women should take to protect themselves online: changing their password frequently, checking their online financial accounts regularly; ensuring that social media sites have the highest privacy settings and always being sure to logoff especially when using public Wi-Fi or shared computers, such as at hotels or Internet cafes. They should also be wary of being approached by strangers online and avoid making too much personal information readily available online.
Through cyber-empowerment, education and installing the necessary security solutions, we can arm ourselves against potential threats and ensure a positive change for women and their families.
This article written by Norton Online Security Advocate Marian Merritt