New Delhi: The Internet in India is still a “male preserve" with females constituting on average only a third of information and communication technology (ICT) users, Unicef said in its annual report released on Monday.
According to the The State of the World’s Children 2017: Children in a digital world—in India only 29% of all Internet users are female. Internet penetration is higher in urban areas, however, the potential to grow is huge.
“Girls in rural areas often face restrictions on their use of ICTs solely because of their gender. One village governing body in rural Rajasthan stated that girls were not to use mobile phones or social media. Another village in Uttar Pradesh banned unmarried girls from using mobile phones," the report said.
There are potentially serious consequences for girls excluded from the digital age, including inability to access online services and information on issues related to their health; inability to further their education; and no chance to further skills that could help them participate in the global economy of the 21st century.
“Girls and boys in India have the unique opportunity to benefit from the connectivity that the digital world can provide. India is famous as an IT Hub and no matter where they live, every girl or boy should have a digital advantage," said Yasmin Ali Haque, India representative of the UN’s children’s agency.
The report also highlighted that 1 in 3 Internet users worldwide is a child and too little is being done to protect them from the perils of the digital world and to increase their access to safe online content. Around one third of the world’s youth —346 million —are not online, exacerbating inequities and reducing children’s ability to participate in an increasingly digital economy.
“Young people are the most connected age group. Worldwide, 71% are online compared with 48% of the total population. African youth are the least connected, with around 3 out of 5 youth offline, compared to just 1 in 25 in Europe," the report said.
“Approximately 56 % of all websites are in English and many children cannot find content they understand or that is culturally relevant. More than 9 in 10 child sexual abuse URLs identified globally are hosted in five countries —Canada, France, the Netherlands, the Russian Federation and the United States," it said.
The report also examines how the Internet increases children’s vulnerability to risks and harms, including misuse of their private information, access to harmful content, and cyber bullying. The ubiquitous presence of mobile devices, the report notes, has made online access for many children less supervised—and potentially more dangerous.
And digital networks like the Dark Web and crypto currencies are enabling the worst forms of exploitation and abuse, including trafficking and ‘made to order’ online child sexual abuse.
“For better and for worse, digital technology is now an irreversible fact of our lives. In a digital world, our dual challenge is how to mitigate the harms while maximizing the benefits of the Internet for every child," said Unicef executive director Anthony Lake.