This week, we looked at an article that highlighted gender inequalities in ICT usage in African countries. While the numbers were interesting and usage was low, it described a greatly different picture than what I had experienced during my time in Thailand, and therefore does not tell the whole story of ICT and gender in developing countries.
Even while living in rural Thailand, in the poorest region of the country, it seemed that technology was everywhere. Everyone had a mobile phone – and this includes those living in villages with no electricity or running water! Internet cafes were extremely popular, and you could get free wifi at every restaurant, tea shop, cafe, and even markets. TVs were a HUGE part of Thai culture, every household had a TV and it was turned on every night for hours. At the University, every student had laptops and cell phones, and sometimes even an iPad too. My Thai roommate had a Blackberry, iPad, TV, and laptop! There were entire malls dedicated to technology sales – computers, phones, etc. Facebook is HUGE, and everyone had one – even my homestay brothers and sisters in rural villages, giving an indication of what Internet access might be! Gender did not seem to be an issue, in fact, it almost seemed as if females had more access and were using technology more!
If you compare my observations to what the study of African countries, there couldn’t be more of a contrast. To make sure my experiences weren’t completely off base, I did some research on ICT usage in Thailand. And guess what? There are more mobile phones in Thailand than there are people!
As I thought, there isn’t much of a gender disparity with 33% of males using the internet, compared to 31% of females. In fact, although it is 31% of women using the internet, more than half of Thailand’s internet users are female! (http://www.thailandinternet.com/internet-statistics-for-thailand.html)
Thailand’s overall internet penetration is 27%, but those who are connected to the internet are using it 50% more than TV (http://wearesocial.net/blog/2012/01/social-digital-mobile-thailand/).
Besides there being more mobile phones than people, the mobile market is over 100%!
A survey showed that, 91% of Thais surveyed reported that they had used a cell phone in the last three months and that 90% of women had cellphones, compared to 80% of men (http://www.nationmultimedia.com/life/How-the-poor-use-cell-phones-30173682.html).
Check out the data below from a UN report from the International Seminar on Information and Communication Technology Statistics in 2010. The region I stayed in was the Northeast and is the rural and poor in the nation.
Needless to say, I wasn’t surprised by the numbers I found. Do any of these numbers shock you?