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Digital Gap in South Africa

Updated: Oct 3, 2023

The digital gap, specifically the gender digital gap, refers to the disparity between men and women in terms of access to and usage of digital technologies and the internet. In South Africa, like in many other countries, there is a significant digital gap that disproportionately affects women.

Despite progress in recent years, women in South Africa still face various barriers that limit their access to digital technologies and the internet. These barriers include socioeconomic factors, cultural norms, and structural inequalities.

One of the main factors contributing to the digital gap is unequal access to technology.

Women in rural areas and low-income communities often have limited access to devices like computers, smartphones, and reliable internet connectivity. This lack of access hinders their ability to participate fully in the digital world, limiting educational and economic opportunities.

Cultural and social norms also play a role in perpetuating the digital gap. Gender stereotypes and traditional roles assigned to women can discourage them from pursuing digital literacy or careers in technology. This can lead to a lack of confidence and interest in utilizing digital tools and accessing online platforms.

Furthermore, there is a shortage of women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) fields, which further exacerbates the gender digital gap. The underrepresentation of women in these fields limits their involvement in the development of digital technologies and decision-making processes related to digital policies and initiatives.

Addressing the digital gap requires multi-faceted approaches. Efforts should be made to improve digital infrastructure, particularly in underserved areas, to ensure women have equal access to technology. Educational initiatives are crucial in promoting digital literacy and empowering women with the necessary skills to utilize digital tools effectively.

Creating awareness and challenging societal norms and stereotypes is essential to encourage more women to engage with digital technologies. Encouraging girls and women to pursue STEM education and careers can also help bridge the gender gap in the technology sector.

Policy interventions, such as gender-responsive digital policies, can help create an enabling environment for women to thrive in the digital space. These policies should address issues like affordable access, digital skills training, and promoting women's participation and leadership in the digital sector.

By bridging the digital gap and empowering women in South Africa to fully participate in the digital world, there is an opportunity to enhance economic growth, promote gender equality, and foster inclusive development.

Digital Gap in South Africa.

South Africa faces significant challenges in bridging the digital gap, both in terms of access to technology and digital skills. Here are some key facts and figures about the digital divide in South Africa:

  1. Internet access: According to the latest data from the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), just over half (52%) of South Africa's population had access to the internet in 2021. This is well below the global average of 61% and reflects significant disparities in internet access across different regions and demographic groups.

  2. Mobile phone penetration: While internet access is low in South Africa, mobile phone penetration is much higher, with around 91% of the population using mobile phones. However, many people only have access to basic phones and limited data plans, which can limit their ability to access information and services online.

  3. Digital skills: South Africa faces a significant shortage of digital skills, with many people lacking the technical knowledge and expertise needed to use digital tools effectively. This is particularly true in rural areas and among disadvantaged groups, such as women, people with disabilities, and low-income communities.

  4. Infrastructure: The quality and availability of digital infrastructure in South Africa are also significant barriers to bridging the digital gap. Many rural areas lack reliable electricity and internet connectivity, while urban areas can also experience service disruptions and slow internet speeds.

  5. Government initiatives: The South African government has launched several initiatives to address the digital gap, including the National Integrated ICT Policy White Paper, which aims to promote universal access to affordable broadband, and the Digital Skills Hub, which provides training and support for digital skills development.

  6. Private sector initiatives: Private sector companies in South Africa are also investing in initiatives to promote digital inclusion, including providing free internet access in underserved areas and launching digital skills training programs for employees and local communities.

Despite these efforts, much more needs to be done to bridge the digital gap in South Africa and ensure that everyone has access to the technology and skills they need to participate fully in the digital economy.

There are several factors that contribute to the digital gap in South Africa. Here are some of the key sources:

  1. Unequal access to technology: One of the primary sources of the digital gap is unequal access to technology. While the cost of technology has decreased over time, it is still relatively expensive for many South Africans, particularly those living in poverty. This means that a significant portion of the population does not have access to digital devices, such as computers and smartphones.

  2. Infrastructure: Another factor contributing to the digital gap is the quality and availability of digital infrastructure. In many areas of the country, particularly rural areas, there is limited or no access to reliable electricity and internet connectivity, which can make it difficult to access and use digital technologies.

  3. Lack of digital literacy: Many South Africans lack the skills and knowledge needed to effectively use digital technologies. This can be due to a lack of access to education and training, particularly in rural areas, or to age-related factors, such as older people being less likely to have been exposed to digital technologies during their formative years.

  4. Socioeconomic factors: Socioeconomic factors such as income, gender, and race also contribute to the digital gap in South Africa. For example, women and people living in poverty are less likely to have access to digital technologies or the skills to use them effectively.

  5. Policy and regulatory barriers: Policy and regulatory barriers can also contribute to the digital gap in South Africa. For example, high taxes on digital devices and services can make them unaffordable for many people, while restrictive licensing requirements can limit competition in the telecommunications sector and increase the cost of internet access.

Addressing these factors and creating a more inclusive digital ecosystem in South Africa will require a multifaceted approach that includes investment in infrastructure, digital skills development, and policy and regulatory reform.

Key highlights about Women Entrepreneurs in South Africa :

  1. Women entrepreneurship in South Africa has been growing steadily over the past decade, with women-owned businesses accounting for over 42% of all small and medium-sized enterprises in the country.

  2. Despite this growth, women entrepreneurs in South Africa still face significant challenges, including limited access to finance, a lack of support networks and mentorship, and gender-based discrimination.

  3. Women-owned businesses tend to be smaller and less profitable than those owned by men, in part due to these barriers.

  4. Women entrepreneurs in South Africa are active in a range of sectors, including retail, healthcare, education, and professional services.

  5. Women entrepreneurs in South Africa are also driving innovation and social change, with many businesses focused on creating employment opportunities, promoting sustainable development, and addressing social and environmental challenges.

  6. There are a number of initiatives and programs in South Africa aimed at supporting women entrepreneurs, including government funding programs, business incubators and accelerators, and mentorship and networking opportunities.

  7. However, much more needs to be done to address the structural barriers that women entrepreneurs in South Africa face, and to create a more inclusive and supportive ecosystem for women's entrepreneurship.

Digital gap in women from Johannesburg.

Johannesburg, like many urban areas in South Africa, faces significant challenges in bridging the digital gap for women. Here are some key factors that contribute to the digital gap in Johannesburg for women:

  1. Access to technology: Many women in Johannesburg do not have access to digital devices such as smartphones, laptops, and computers. This can be due to financial constraints, with digital devices being relatively expensive, as well as other factors such as a lack of awareness or technical knowledge of how to use the technology.

  2. Digital literacy: Even when women in Johannesburg do have access to technology, many lack the necessary digital literacy skills to use it effectively. This can be due to a lack of education and training in digital skills, as well as cultural factors that discourage women from pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields.

  3. Gender-based discrimination: Women in Johannesburg, as in many parts of the world, may face gender-based discrimination that limits their access to digital technologies and opportunities. This can manifest in a variety of ways, such as lower pay and limited opportunities for advancement in the tech industry, as well as cultural biases that discourage women from pursuing careers in STEM fields.

  4. Lack of infrastructure: The quality and availability of digital infrastructure in Johannesburg can also be a barrier to women's access to digital technologies. For example, many areas of the city may not have reliable electricity or internet connectivity, making it difficult for women to access and use digital technologies.

Addressing these challenges will require a concerted effort from government, the private sector, and civil society organizations to provide women in Johannesburg with access to digital technologies, digital skills training, and support for entrepreneurship and career advancement in the tech sector. Initiatives such as free Wi-Fi hotspots, digital skills training programs, and mentorship opportunities can all help to bridge the digital gap for women in Johannesburg.

In South Africa, women face a significant digital gap, particularly in the realm of entrepreneurship. The digital gap refers to the disparity in access to and usage of digital technologies and the internet. For women entrepreneurs, this gap is further amplified by limited access to technology, socioeconomic barriers, gender stereotypes, a digital skills gap, and underrepresentation in the tech and entrepreneurship sectors.

The limited access to technology, especially in rural and low-income areas, hampers women entrepreneurs' ability to start or grow digital businesses. Socioeconomic challenges, such as financial limitations and unequal access to funding opportunities, create barriers to entry in the digital economy. Gender stereotypes and cultural norms discourage women from pursuing entrepreneurship in digital spaces, while a lack of digital skills and training further restricts their ability to compete.

To bridge this gap, targeted interventions are required. Improving digital infrastructure, promoting digital literacy and skills training, creating supportive policies and initiatives, and encouraging gender diversity and inclusion are key strategies. These measures aim to enhance access to technology, equip women entrepreneurs with digital skills, address their specific needs, and create a more inclusive and supportive environment for their digital businesses.

Closing the digital gap for women entrepreneurs in South Africa has the potential to unlock their economic potential, drive growth, and promote gender equality in the digital economy.

Join us in making a difference by supporting our program, "Closing the Digital Gap in South Africa," through a donation to Coachability Foundation. Together, we can empower women and bridge the digital divide, ensuring equal opportunities for all.

Your donation ( press here ) will help us implement various initiatives aimed at addressing the challenges faced by women in accessing and utilizing digital technologies for entrepreneurship in South Africa. By investing in our program, you are contributing to empower entrepreneur women in South Africa.

Pic by Ottun Abdulmalik

Curator Montse Domínguez i Munllonch

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  5. Stats SA. (2019). General Household Survey 2018. Statistics South Africa. Retrieved from

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  7. Ntsalaze, L., & du Plessis, S. (2018). Gender gap in the South African labour market: Evidence from the QLFS 2008-2015. Development Southern Africa, 35(1), 38-55.

  8. Amoako-Gyampah, K., & Bremang, C. (2019). Closing the digital gender divide in South Africa: A multilevel analysis. Gender & Behaviour, 17(3), 13919-13935.

  9. South African Human Rights Commission. (2019). Report on the right to access the Internet in South Africa. Retrieved from

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