Mobile internet adoption by women has stopped in many countries

After years of progress toward equal digital inclusion for women, we are now seeing a slowdown and, in some cases, a reversal.

More than 3.2 billion people in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) are now connected to the Internet via a mobile phone. Mobile is the main way for men and women to access the Internet in low- and middle-income countries, accounting for 85% of broadband connections in 2021

In low- and middle-income countries, an additional 59 million women started using mobile internet in 2021, a significant decrease from last year, when women started using it almost twice. Women are still 7% less likely than men to own a mobile phone and 16% less likely to use the mobile Internet. This means that there are still 264 million fewer women accessing the mobile internet than men. There is an urgent need for significant and coordinated efforts to bridge the gender gap and ensure that women can participate fully in a more digital society.

The findings of the GSMA report below in this report are based on the results of more than 11,000 face-to-face surveys in 10 low- and middle-income countries, as well as subsequent modeling and analysis of this data. Additional qualitative research was conducted in Kenya and India to build on the findings of last year’s report and to develop a more nuanced understanding of women’s access to and use of the mobile Internet, particularly in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. Mobile phones have enabled people to mitigate some of the negative effects of the pandemic by providing lifelong access to information, healthcare, education, e-commerce, financial services, and income-generating opportunities. However, the pandemic has also shed light on the deep digital divide, and those who do not have access to mobile phones and the mobile Internet
More risk of falling back.

The gender gap in mobile phone ownership and mobile Internet use is calculated using the following formula:

Mobile Internet

The gender gap in mobile internet use varies by region, with the largest gaps in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. There has been no noticeable change in gender gaps in the region over the years, with the exception of South Asia where steady progress has led to an overall narrowing of the LITI gender gap. However, from 2020 to 2021, male adoption of mobile internet in South Asia continued to increase while female adoption stalled. This has increased the gender gap in mobile internet in South Asia from 36% to 41%.

India has been a big driver in closing the gender gap over the years, but it has not seen a significant increase in the proportion of women using mobile internet over the past year, while an increasing proportion of men are using mobile internet. The proportion of Indian women using mobile internet has remained at 30% this year, while the proportion of Indian men using mobile internet has risen to 50%.

smart phone

In the 10 countries studied, women were less likely than men to own a smartphone!

Smartphones are essential for internet access and bridging the gender gap. Once women own a smartphone, their knowledge and use of the mobile Internet is almost equivalent to that of men. Unfortunately, this year’s smartphone ownership story isn’t positive either. While the gender gap in smartphone ownership narrowed from 21% in 2019 to 16% in 2020, it widened to 18% in 2021, reflecting slow progress in reducing the gender gap in the mobile internet.

Research has found that once women use a mobile phone and are aware of the mobile internet, the main barriers to using the mobile internet are lack of digital knowledge and skills, affordability, mostly internet-enabled phones, and safety and security. These are the same barriers that men face, but we also find that these barriers have a disproportionate impact on women. Respondents in our qualitative research in Kenya highlighted that the ability to purchase a smartphone and data has been eroded by lower incomes, with women being disproportionately affected.

Leave a Comment