Click here for search results

Indicators for Monitoring Gender and ICT

This section identifies specific indicators for monitoring gender and ICTs and focuses on 'sex-disaggregated statistics.' An exceptional case from Korea is provided as an example. 

Importance of disaggregating ICT statistics by sex

The major reason for collecting and disseminating macro-level ICT statistics and indicators by gender is to inform national policy and to set international policy goals. Without data, there is no visibility; without visibility, there is no priority. From both observation and anecdotal evidence, we "know" that there is a gender gap in the digital divide in several developed and many more developing countries, but there are very little data. Without such data, it is difficult, if not impossible to make the case for the inclusion of gender issues in ICT policies, plans and strategies for policymakers. Sweeping generalizations based on identified trends and simplistic conclusions are of little value. Influencing global policy continues to be discussed at the World Summits on the Information Society (WSIS) in Tunis in 2005.

On the project level, the major reason for collecting sex-disaggregated data is to ascertain by measurement if men and women are benefiting differently from project interventions and to take corrective action if this turns out to be the case.

Unfortunately, only few national-level data in developing countries and project-level sex disaggregated data have been collected. 

Which gender statistics are important in ICTs

There are a number of areas where national-level sex-disaggregated statistics and indicators on ICTs would be useful both at the national and project levels. These include:

  • Internet access and usage
  • Content
  • Employment
  • Education
  • ICT telecommunications policy
  • Participation in telecommunication and ICT decision making
  • Differential impact of ICTs on men and women
  • Participation in ICT projects

Internet access and usage

The one national-level ICT indicator that is found disaggregated by sex with increasing frequency (although without any standardization in data collection) is Internet usage by country and region. This is one of the most useful indicator on which to establish regular and standardized data collection.

Statistics available from commercial, industry, nonprofit, and government sources present an interesting picture of sex-differentiation in Internet access and usage in a number of Asian and Pacific countries. It is notable, however, that the statistics do not go beyond Internet access and usage.


According to CNNIC in 2001, the number of Internet users in China increased from 10,000 in December 1999 to 22,500,000 in January 2001, with 61,000,000 users expected by the end of 2002. The gender proportion of Internet users in July 1999 was 79 percent for men and 21 percent for women. By 2001 CCNIC put the figure of women Internet users at 39.8 percent. The proportion of men and women using the Internet shows that men are heavy users by a ratio of 65:35, and women are light users by a ratio of 49:51.

Hong Kong

Netvalue's research of September 2000 shows men outnumbering women as heavy users by 58 to 42 percent; whereas, women outnumber men as light users by 38 to 62 percent. More women in Hong Kong were using the Internet as compared with women in Taiwan, Singapore, and South Korea. By 2002 NielsenNet put the figure of women users at 45 percent.


According to the report researched by NASSCOM (National Association of Software and Service Companies in June-July 2000, the number of Internet users in India was 3,700,000, and the proportion of males to females was 77:23. The percentage of women users has increased from 18 percent in June 1999 (APWINC).  


Twenty percent of Internet users are women. The number of Internet users in Indonesia overall was very small: 4 million people (0.715 percent of the population) in 2001(Indonesian Association of Internet Service Providers (APJII).


According to a survey conducted by Internet Matrix and the Korea Network Information Center (March 2001), the proportion of male to female Internet users was 57:43. However the gender gap has been reduced since October 1999 when there were only 33 percent female users. In September 2000 NetValue found that in Korea men were heavier users of the Internet than women by a ratio of 64:36. However women predominated among light users by a ratio of 44:56. By 2002 Nielsen had put the figure of women users at 47 percent..


NECTEC, a specialized national center under government auspices, has done three annual Internet user surveys with sex-disaggregated data.  Data show that women have now achieved and slightly exceeded parity.  The survey is currently available only in Thai.  In  2004, a total of 10,511 forms were sent out to the target group.  4,777 females and 5,668 males responded to the survey.  (Internet User Profile of Thailand 2004)  

Access data

In addition to usage data, information on access differences by gender should also be collected. Among other reasons, data availability can inform regulators who seek universal access. To date most universal access strategies have been based on geographical factors (for example rural or urban) or income data (with low income areas being underserved). It is important to add gender as an important variable in determining universal service obligations, achieving universal access, and enabling the universal right to communicate.

Telecommunications access

Access is especially important in relation to the right to communicate. To date the only telecommunications access statistics or indicators disaggregated by sex relate to mobile telephone ownership in some countries.


Are there differences in the kinds of material on the Internet that men and women access or want? These data are available in sex-disaggregated form for many developed countries because market research firms are interested in sex-differentiated patterns of content access. For developing countries, data on content differences by gender are unavailable. The data could be in the form of either specific sites or types of sites most commonly accessed, differentiated by sex.


Valuable statistics and indicators in employment include gender-related employment differentials within the ICT and telecommunications industries and employment by gender and level in the ICT field, in jobs using ICT, and in the ICT manufacturing industry. The only area in which the International Telecommunication Union, the major collector and disseminator of ICT statistics, currently collects sex-disaggregated ICT statistics is on employment of women in the telecommunications service providers by country. However, these data are not very significant because they simply reveal that in most countries the majority of positions within the traditional public telecommunication operators (that of telephone operators) are held by women. They say nothing about the level of employment. Useful statistics would show level of employment in telecommunications, including telecommunications manufacturing and ICT industries (both ICT-manufacturing and ICT-using).

Few data are available on women's participation in computer science and engineering research or on their employment in the private sector or in research institutions. However the data that do exist indicate that the participation of women in higher-skilled, higher-ranking, and higher-paid positions remains very low. These data are now available for a number of countries, including some developing ones. They show a progressive decline of the number of women in ICT-related employment at increasing levels of complexity. Many women operate computers, largely for word processing and related office programs and for data entry. Many fewer are programmers and systems analysts. The least number of women are in software and hardware engineering in North America, Europe, and Asia.

In particular, the participation of women in ICT design and development is generally low. Concentrated in the low or unskilled end of employment, women are not getting the training that the new jobs require. This is leading to fears of the global feminization of labor, whereby occupations in which women predominate see a drop in salaries, status, and working conditions. Readily available statistics and indicators in this area would help make the case for encouraging women's education in science and technology (S&T) to make them eligible for higher level positions using ICTs.


Questions about women's technical education and their participation in S&T professions are important ones for national sustainable development. Although more governments are collecting data on the use of ICTs in public education, it is still not possible to obtain data on the number of men and women studying ICTs and computer science in both formal and non-formal educational settings in most countries and in nearly all developing countries. Although very few sex-disaggregated data are collected concerning women's participation in S&T education, the data we do have indicate consistently low participation by women and girls, with exceptions in some developing countries. These data on differential access to education for employment in telecommunications and ICTs are significant in determining the future of the gender digital gap. In response to data on continuing and increasing declines in the numbers of women studying computer science, Carnegie-Mellon University in the United States successfully undertook corrective actions.[1]

ICT telecommunication policy

A gender indicator for ICT policy could be the consideration of gender issues in the country's ICT plan, policy, or strategy. To date, few developing countries have done this. Korea is a notable exception, with a well-developed gender strategy in the national ICT plan. In Africa, Cote d'Ivoire makes passing mention of gender issues; whereas, in Guinea it is well developed. South Africa's White Paper on communication dealt with gender issues; however, critics feel that implementation has not lived up to its intentions.

Participation in telecommunication and ICT decision making

An examination of the extent to which women are represented in decision-making about ICTs reflects the progress of women in the field and also the possibility that women in positions of power will serve as role models for others, facilitate the entry of other women, and alleviate some of the negative impacts of new technologies on women. Available data indicate that women are conspicuously absent from decisionmaking structures in both developed and developing countries. These structures includes boards and senior management of ICT companies, senior management and advisors of policy and regulatory organizations, organizations setting technical standards, industry and professional organizations such as the Internet society, national policy and regulatory organizations, line ministries responsible for the ICT sector, and international development organizations and agencies. Indicators in this regard could include numbers of women in senior management positions at selected ICT firms, in ministries of communication and information technology (or their equivalent), ICANN, and ITU study groups.

Differential impact of ICTs on men and women

Very few data are available on the impact of ICTs on persons outside the OECD countries. Given project-level indications of the differential impact of ICT on men and women, both quantitative and qualitative data on this area would be highly useful.[2]

Participation in ICT projects

The key quantitative gender performance indicator of whether men and women are participating and benefiting equitably from an ICT project or an ICT component in a project is participation by sex, with the nature of the participation determined by the specific project. The essential element being measured is whether the project impacts men and women differently. Indicators of this would include number of participants in the project by sex; users of the projects services by sex (for example participants in training and participants at a conference, seminar, or workshop); users of credit facilities; and users of information services. Also of interest would be project staff by sex. As these indicators are the standard measurements of project data normally collected for both monitoring and evaluation, the essential element is to ensure that the data are disaggregated by sex. Surprisingly, this is rarely done. Analysis of the data will then indicate whether there are serious gender imbalances that need to be addressed in the project.

Current state of sex-disaggregated statistics on ICT

Who collects them

The major sources of sex-differentiated statistics and indicators on ICTs are official government statistics, for a few countries, and market research surveys, for a larger number of countries where Internet commerce is already significant or expected to be so shortly.

Official statistics

Some countries collect and disseminate Internet usage information as a part of official government statistics. Among these countries are Finland, Korea, and Thailand. A number of countries are also collecting data on the use of ICTs in public education, and many of these statistics are sex disaggregated.

The Korean case

Korea is doing substantial and interesting work on gender and ICT statistics. Since the first quarter of 2000, the Korean Network Information Center (KRNIC) has undertaken and published quarterly surveys of Internet use. These surveys average 5700 users and collect data in 20 categories disaggregated by sex, and in most cases age. KRNIC's categories for which Internet data are available by sex are:

Rates of Internet usage (by sex and age)

Main reasons for Internet usage (10 reasons cited)

Age of first Internet usage

Frequency of Internet usage

Average duration of Internet use

Anticipated (projected one year) Internet use

Modes of Internet access (e.g. LAN, IDSN, DSL)

Time of main Internet usage

Places of primary, secondary, tertiary Internet usage

Average cost of Internet connection

Main purpose of usage

Main purpose of Internet surfing

Rate of possession of e-mail address

Numbers of e-mail addresses

Rate of possession of homepage

Problems with using Internet

Number of hours per week spent reading newspapers, watching television

Reasons for not using Internet

In 2001 the Ministry of Gender Equality released a research report on "Women's Informatization Survey and Index Development" to document and examine the gender digital divide in Korea. The Ministry based their research on five categories, from which they developed an index of women's "informatization," which was defined as the process by which information technologies have transformed economy and society. The Korea index uses the categories of awareness, access, utilization, skill, and effects. The index measured involvement of men and women according to the categories and then measured comparative informatization by sex. The results showed that women's informatization measured 88 percent that of men's. Women scored very high on awareness, skills, and effect. However in terms of access and usage the situation of women was particularly deficient. Women had only 22.9 percent the access of men and used the Internet 28.2 percent as much as men.[3]

In November 2001 the development of the index was followed by 2600 face-to-face interviews, equally divided between men and women, to compare their situation with regard to informatization. Among the findings was that there is a serious digital divide by age. Women's scores in all categories in the index dropped with age (measured in decades, starting with those in their twenties), and there was a series gap for those who were 50 years of age and older. Not surprisingly, women with higher incomes had a higher rate of informatization than women with lower incomes.[4]

In February 2002 the Asian Pacific Women's Information Network Center of The Sookmyung Women's University, the leader in this work, organized a workshop entitled "Survey of Women's Informatization in Asia and the Pacific," in an effort to develop indicators for a survey on women's involvement in computerization to be conducted throughout the Asian region.[5] In cooperation with the Korean National Commission for UNESCO, APWINC carried out a survey on the situation of women's informatization in seven countries: China, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Nepal, Philippines, and Sri Lanka from March-October 2002.

Difficulties with currently available data

Many sources are using data that are highly questionable. Despite the small sample size of a 1993-1995 study of Fido-based e-mail (and later, Internet) usage in four African countries, and the fact that some of the data reflected store-and-forward e-mail and not Internet, these data are still used as an authoritative source for gender-specific Internet usage in these countries. "Zambia (36 percent of users are women) shows better parity than France (33.4 percent), Germany (31.7 percent) and the United Kingdom (35.9 percent).[6]

Challenges in collecting gender statistics and indicators

The major challenges with regard to sex-differentiated statistics and indicators on ICTs are that few sources collect these data and that there is no systematic approach or coordinated method to data collection. Not many government organizations collect national ICT statistics in a consistent and regular manner; and of those that do, very few provide a breakdown by gender. This has been well documented by Michael Minges of ITU. As Minges writes, "until primary ICT data collections see market value in obtaining gender disaggregated statistics, the data will not be widely available."[7] This is unfortunate because it is likely that many of the world's countries, particularly those in Africa, are likely to remain outside global market interest in the foreseeable future. The penetration of ICTs in these countries is important to their sustainable development, as is the full participation of their population. It is important to bring all countries to an awareness of sex-differentiated data in all their ICT data-collection efforts, particularly in household and enterprise surveys. The World Summit on the Information Society will be an important forum at which to emphasize this concern. It is equally important for project managers to gather and analyze sex-disaggregated data on men's and women's participation in ICT projects.

[1] Jane Margolis and Alan Fisher (2002), Unlocking the Clubhouse: Women in Computing. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.
[2] See e.g. Nancy Hafkin, "Are ICTs Gender Neutral? A gender analysis of six case studies of multi-donor ICT projects." [Accessed 8 February 2003].
[3] Korea, Ministry of Gender Equality (2001) "Study of Women's Informatization survey and index development."Cited in Republic of Korea. 2002." APEC 2nd Ministerial Meeting on Women. Seoul. The study does not appear to be available electronically in English.
[4] Soon-Ae Yang, "Women Informatization Indicators in the Republic of Korea,"Appendix II, Report of the United Nations Department for Advancement of Women Expert Group Meeting on ICTs and women. Aviailable at [Accessed 28 December 2002].
[5]"Survey on Women's Informatization in Asia and the Pacific." 2002.
[6] S. Nanthikesan, "Trends in Digital Divide." (2000). [Accessed 12 December 2002.]
[7] Michael Minges (2002), "Gender and ICT statistics."Presented to 3rd World Telecommunications/ICT Indicators Meeting, Geneva, 15-17 January 2003. [accessed 8 February 2003].


Back to topacheived

Permanent URL for this page: