Around 112 million women across the world started using mobile phones to access the internet in the last year. But there’s still a gender gap of 234 million compared with use by men.
South Asia saw the biggest rise in use by women, according to the GSMA in its latest Mobile Gender Gap Report. The gender gap in the region was narrowed from 50 per cent to 37 per cent during the year.
The figure was similar in Sub-Saharan Africa, at 36 per cent, but there has been stagnation in the take-up of mobile internet by women in that region and many others.
The GSMA say that women were more likely than men to access the internet exclusively via mobile in almost all markets surveyed. In Kenya, for example, 63 per cent of male internet users said they only used the internet via a mobile device compared to 79 per cent of females. This reliance by women on mobile demonstrates the disproportionate benefit of increasing their access.
“If women are to become equal citizens in a more digital, post-COVID world, closing the mobile gender gap has never been more critical,” said Mats Granryd, Director General, of the GSMA. “I urge policymakers, the private sector and the international community to take note of the important findings laid out in the Mobile Gender Gap Report because only concerted action and collaboration will enable women and their families to reap the full benefits of connectivity.”
Affordability, lack of literacy and digital skills, and lower awareness of mobile internet are critical and common barriers for women. 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.