|WIT's World Ecology Report - Vol. 10, No. 4 - Critical Issues in Health and the Environment (WIT, 1998, 16 pages)|
World Wide Women
"To get an audience of 50 million, it took radio 38 years, for
television, it took 13 years, for INTERNET, it took 4 years, and it is estimated
that by the year 2000 there will be more than 200 million users." Chuck Martin
author of Net Future. (1999).
Every 100 days, the number of people who go onto the web doubles. Increasingly, those new Internet users are women entering a domain once dominated by men and changing cyberspace culture.
Various estimates now put women at 40 percent or more of the U.S. online population. Four years ago, (1995) women made up 3 percent of US users, according to Georgia Tech University, which surveys Internet users twice a year. Last spring, Georgia Tech researchers found that more than half the Net's newcomers were women. America Online - the biggest commercial Internet service in the US with 14 million subscribers- has reported that now more than half its clients are women. Jupiter Communications, a New York research company, predicts that women will make up more than half the entire country's Internet users by 2002.
The American trend is reflected around the world. Nearly two-thirds of the people who visited Internet search tool AltaVista's Asian site in January (1998) were women, as were 85 % of April's (1998) visitors to Russia's largest Internet publisher, according to Nua, a group that tracks Internet trends. In Ireland, the proportion of women among Internet users rose from 25 to 31 percent in the last 18 months, the Irish Internet Association reported.
In India, where the government has recently liberalized the Indian Internet market, 1.5 million Internet users are expected to be online by the year 2000, an increase of 300% from the current half million users. This expanded access to the World Wide Web will also put more women on line. ISPs, or Internet Service Providers, may face challenges in getting enough telephone lines in the four big Indian cities - Bombay, Delhi, Bangalore and Madras - from where about 70 % of new ISP connection demand is expected to come.
Although China currently has only 5000 web sites on the net. International Data Corporation estimates that it will become the biggest market in Asia outside of Japan by 2000 and will have more than 9.4 million users by 2002.
As evidence that women want rooms of their own in cyberspace, women's sites have grown. San Mateo-based Women. com logs 2.3 million visitors every month according to its creator, Ellen Pack. The UN's Women Watch site is an important spot for international women's issues. Amazon City, an up beat diverse site, challenges gender stereotypes as it sets out to have fun.
Electronic mail, or e-mail, communication is still the most widespread and the most important form of ICT. Email lists enable information to circulate around the world as quickly as telephone connections allow. Unlike web sites that passively depend on visitors, email requires the active transmission of messages that themselves can call for action. For example, information about the governmental negotiations on the Multilateral Agreement on Investment (mai) traversed the world on email lists, or listservs, and produced a world wide citizen's objection that shut down the international trade negotiations. Internet connectivity includes email capacity thus increasing the utilization of both by women.
In addition to telephone and electrical lines, use of the Internet requires the ability to read and write. Literacy level is the greatest impediment to Internet use. As literacy has been associated with poverty and poverty with women, the Internet would seem to marginalize women even further. However, because the web and email enable information - of all kinds - to quickly circle the globe, it has become and will continue to grow as an empowering tool, especially for women. Therefore, expanding access of girls to basic education now will ultimately bring more girls and women into cyberspace, where their voices will be heard and connected to others.
"We have a major stake in mobilizing resources that match the
richness of our cultural diversity since culture and communication will become
central components before long of all development policies." Federico Mayor,
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