A new study by the GSM Association has revealed that 440 million women in Nigeria and other low- and middle-income countries do not own a mobile phone.
The global panel of telecom companies stated in its The Mobile Gender Gap Report 2023 that the underlying barriers to mobile phone ownership remain affordability, literacy, digital skills and lack of perceived relevance.
It states: “The underlying gender gap in mobile phone ownership in low- and middle-income countries has changed little since 2017.”
“In these countries, women are seven percent less likely than men to own a mobile phone. 440 million women still don’t have one and are hard to reach. The most commonly cited barriers to mobile phone ownership are affordability, literacy, digital skills and lack of perceived relevance. Women who do not own a phone were more likely than men to say they felt they didn’t need their own phone when they could use someone else’s phone.”
According to the organization, the proportion of women in cell phone use and mobile internet use remained the same or increased in most survey countries in 2022 due to the global economic crisis Gender gaps in cell phone ownership or mobile internet use.
It found that seven percent of women were less likely than men to own a mobile phone, meaning 130 million fewer women than men owned one.
“The gender gap in smartphone ownership also remained relatively unchanged in 2022. This gender gap narrowed but widened slightly to 18 percent in 2021 and now stands at 17 percent. Closing these gender gaps is crucial, as owning a mobile phone, especially a smartphone, significantly increases awareness and use of mobile internet among men and women,” the GSMA argued.
The GSMA study found that the gender gap on mobile internet narrowed significantly between 2017 and 2020, from 25 percent to 15 percent. Progress was found to have stalled in 2021, when the gender gap widened slightly to 18 percent.
It found that the gender gap has remained relatively unchanged at present, with women being 19 percent less likely than men to use mobile internet.
According to the association, by 2022, 60 million women in low- and middle-income countries will use mobile internet, but overall 310 million fewer women than men will use mobile internet.
The GSMA stated, “In 2022 there were no significant changes in regional gender gaps in cell phone ownership or mobile internet, with the gaps remaining widest in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.”
“In South Asia, women are 41 percent less likely than men to use mobile internet, and in sub-Saharan Africa they are 36 percent less likely than men to do so.” 19 pandemic and the ongoing economic crisis, this further slowdown in digital inclusion is perhaps not surprising.
“However, it is a strong reminder to focus attention, action and investment on bridging the digital divide, particularly the digital gender divide.”
According to the association, the gender gap in mobile internet has not narrowed in 2022, and it remains unchanged: by 2030, only 360 million more women in LMICs will be using it (compared to 490 million more men).
To close this gap by 2030, an additional 450 million women would need to use mobile internet, bringing the total to 810 million women, averaging 100 million women per year.
The GSMA pointed out that the gender gap in mobile phone ownership and mobile internet use not only reflects existing gender inequalities but also threatens to exacerbate them, particularly as the economy has suffered from the current economic crisis and Mobile phones have become more and more affordable.
Closing the gender gap in mobile ownership is expected to generate an estimated $230 billion in additional revenue for the mobile industry by 2030.