An estimated 112 million more women started using mobile internet last year across low and middle-income countries, despite the onset of COVID19, according to the fourth annual GSMA Mobile Gender Gap Report published today. 234 million fewer women than men access mobile internet. Moreover, the underlying gender gap in mobile ownership persists and is proving difficult to close.
Affordability, lack of literacy and digital skills, and lower awareness of mobile internet are critical and common barriers forwomen. Structural inequalities in society and discriminative social norms also remain a challenge. Even when women have the same levels of education, income, literacy, and employment as men, they are still less likely to own a mobile phone or use mobile internet.
Women were more likely than men to access the internet exclusively via mobile in almost all markets surveyed but affordability is a particular barrier in SubSaharan Africa where it has risen to be the top barrier for men and the second most important barrier for women.
Beyond national variations, there are also differences between urban and rural areas. In every country surveyed except Algeria and Brazil, the mobile ownership gender gap is widest in rural areas. For example, in Uganda there is a four per cent urban gender gap in mobile ownership while in rural areas it is over five times that, at 22 per cent.
The survey on usage ranging from basic mobile services, such as sending SMS messages and making voice calls, through to more complex, internet-based use cases, such as watching video content online revealed that women mobile owners used fewer applications than men
Male and female usage levels are lowest in South Asia and in Uganda markets with some of the lowest overall levels of mobile ownership and mobile internet use. In Bangladesh, Pakistan and Uganda, men use an average of four use cases on a weekly basis, and women three.
The report further revealed that a record number of women in South Asia now use mobile internet services, helping shrink the gender gap to 15% from 19% last year in low- and middle-income countries.
The gains in South Asia, which had the most significant gender gap in 2019 with women 50% less likely than men to usemobile internet, masked the stagnation in other regions such as SubSaharan Africa. Women in both regions now face a similar gender gap in mobile internet use – 37% in Sub-Saharan Africa and 36% in South Asia.
The GSMA introduced the Connected Women Commitment Initiative in 2016 to catalyse action to close the mobile gender gap. Mobile operators continued to make commitments during 2020, with 40 mobile operators across Africa, Asiaand Latin America making formal commitments to accelerate digital and financial inclusion for women since 2016. Theseoperators have already reached more than 40 million additional women with mobile internet or mobile money services.
The Full GSMA’s Mobile Gender Gap Report 2021 can be downloaded at: https://www.gsma.com/r/gender-gap/
EDITOR’s NOTE: Part of this story is from an official press release shared to the Tech Point Magazine team.