Botswana currently has over US$14 million sitting unspent in the country’s Universal Service and Access Funds, despite affordability being a major barrier to connecting women, as 1GB of mobile prepaid Internet costs over 5 percent of monthly average income.
This has been revealed in the latest report launched by World Wide Web Foundation and the Alliance for Affordable Internet, with support and funding from UN Women dubbed: Universal Service and Access Funds: An Untapped Resource to Close the Gender Digital Divide.
According to the report, there is approximately US$177 million sitting unspent in USAFs across nine African countries – Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Mozambique, South Africa and Liberia.
“This amount could bring approximately six million women online, or could be used to provide digital skills training to nearly 16 million women and girls,” reads part of the report.
The report says failure to take urgent action to close the digital divide — and to use resources dedicated specifically to doing so — will further widen the gulf between the digital haves and the digital have-nots, undermining economic growth and stunting global development in the process.
“Compared to men, women are less likely to access the internet generally, and the mobile internet specifically; even when they are online, women are less likely than men to use it to improve their lives. What’s more, this digital gender gap is growing wider across the globe.”
Universal Service and Access Funds (USAFs) are public funds — financed primarily through contributions made by mobile network operators and other telecommunications companies — intended to expand communications services to underserved areas and populations. Governments have been urged to invest at least 50 percent of funds in projects targeting women’s internet access and use, make project design and implementation more gender-responsive and Increase transparency of fund financing, disbursements and operations. In addition, the report urges for improved diversity in USAF governance and increased awareness of gender issues within the USAF.