Mobile gender gap still persists and we should address it
Mobile ownership has had a transformative impact on people’s everyday life. Especially in emerging markets, where mobile is the basic tool for digital and financial inclusion, owning a mobile phone has proven to be more crucial to their life.
Over the years, especially during the last decade, we have seen a significant progress in the developing world. But despite this progress a key challenge still remains. Gender gap in mobile ownership is not closing. A recent report from GSMA raises the gap in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) to 10%, which translates into 197 million fewer women than men owning a mobile phone.
Findings from this report shows us that over 250 million more women now own a mobile phone in LMICs than in 2014. Despite the growth in connectivity, analysts note that women are still being left behind. According to the report, mobile gender gap varies by region and country but is widest in South Asia where women are 28% less likely than men to own a mobile device, while in Sub-Saharan Africa rate in mobile ownership’s gender gap is 15%.
The mobile gender gap extends beyond just ownership. Even among mobile owners, there is a gender gap in the use of mobile services, which widens further for mobile internet-based services. Access to mobile internet has been growing, with a billion new mobile internet subscribers in LMICs since 2014. However, mobile internet penetration is still much lower than mobile ownership. For instance, 80% of women in LMICs own a mobile phone, compared to 48% who use mobile internet. Also, despite growing uptake of mobile internet in LMICs, women in these markets are 23 per cent less likely than men to use it. This means that across LMICs, 313 million fewer women than men use mobile internet.
According to the report, affordability, particularly of handset is the top barrier to mobile ownership. Channel VAS has recognized affordability as a key barrier for digital inclusion, providing solutions such as handset loans, making the acquisition of a device more affordable.
Literacy and digital skills, a perceived lack of relevance, and safety and security concerns are also important barriers to mobile ownership and mobile internet use for women.
For GSMA, closing the gender gaps in mobile ownership and usage represents an important commercial opportunity for the mobile industry. It is estimated that If mobile operators could close these gender gaps in low- and middle-income countries by 2023, this would provide an additional $140 billion in revenue to the mobile industry over the next five years. For the economies of these countries, closing the gender gap in mobile internet use across could add $700 billion in GDP growth (representing an additional 0.7 per cent of GDP growth) until 2023.
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