Long Way to Digital Inclusion: 800 million Women Need to Use Mobile Internet to Overcome Digital Gender Gap

By: GWL Team | Friday, 2 June 2023

Mobile technology has radically changed the ways in which people communicate, acquire information, and interact with the world around, in the quickly evolving digital era. Nevertheless, despite the impressive advancements achieved in mobile connection, there continues to be a persistent and alarming difference known as the "mobile gender gap."

The gender gap in mobile technology refers to how differently men and women may access and use mobile phones and associated technologies. It has significant ramifications for people, groups, and even nations. Women, especially in poor countries, suffer obstacles that prevent them from participating fully in society. These obstacles include a lack of financial resources, cultural norms, illiteracy, and a lack of digital literacy abilities.

By preventing women from accessing crucial information, educational chances, healthcare services, and employment possibilities, the mobile gender gap maintains current disparities. Governments, businesses, non-profits, and international organisations must work together to establish a supportive atmosphere that encourages gender equality and digital inclusion in order to solve this issue.

According to the most recent Mobile Gender Gap Report released by the GSMA, over 800 million women would need to use mobile internet in order to overcome the digital gender gap across low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) by 2030.

GSMA Report Outcomes

The most recent data shows that without increased effort from a wide variety of stakeholders, the gap between the numbers of men and women utilising mobile internet will not be addressed. With women in LMICs 19% less likely than men to use mobile internet, or around 310 million fewer women than men, progress in closing the gender gap in mobile internet usage is still at a standstill.

Only 360 million additional women (less than half of the 800 million objective) are anticipated to begin utilising mobile broadband by the end of the decade, according to current projections, if the gender gap persists.

In low- and middle-income nations (LMICs) in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, the cellphone Gender Gap Report examines cellphone ownership and mobile internet usage. The paper offers statistics that show the extent of the gender gap in mobile ownership in each area, a discussion of the obstacles to internet adoption, and suggestions for stakeholders, such as politicians, regulators, mobile operators, and NGOs. Through the GSMA Mobile for Development Foundation, it is financed by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) and the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO).

Other key findings from the report include:

Only 60 million women in low-middle income countries (LMICs) will be using mobile internet in 2022, down from 75 million in 2021, marking the second year in a row that the rate of adoption has decreased. Additionally, two-thirds of the 900 million women who live in LMICs and are not linked to mobile broadband reside in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.

In LMICs, there are around 250 million fewer women than men who possess smartphones, with women being 17% less likely than males to do so. Still, 440 million women in LMICs do not have a cell phone, making them hard to approach. For mobile users who are already aware of using mobile internet, cost, literacy and digital abilities, and safety and security concerns are the main adoption hurdles. Women, their families, the economy, and business all gain significantly from owning and using mobile devices.

According to Mats Granryd, Director General of the GSMA, "mobile phones are the primary, and frequently the only, source of internet access in LMICs, particularly in rural communities, so it's alarming to see women's digital inclusion slow for the second year in a row." In order to increase women's access to and usage of mobile internet and eventually guarantee that women are not left behind in a world that is becoming more and more digital, there has to be greater coordination across all digital community players, from governments to operators, NGOs, and internet firms.

GSMA Connected Women Commitment Project

In order to help mobile operators close the gender gap in their client bases for their mobile internet or mobile money services, the GSMA created the GSMA Connected Women Commitment project in 2016. Since the program's start, more than 40 mobile operators in LMICs have formally committed to closing the gender gap. As a result, they have expanded their customer bases to over 65 million additional women, providing underprivileged women, their communities, and the economy with considerable socioeconomic advantages.

By addressing women's demands and the obstacles to their adoption and use of mobile internet, mobile network operators (MNOs) have been able to close the gender gap in mobile usage. However, more attention and targeted action from all stakeholders, including MNOs, internet firms, legislators and regulators, and the development community, will be necessary to adequately address the problem and make substantial progress.