The evolution of the mobile gender gap

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The evolution of the mobile gender gap

“In 2020, connectivity is more important than ever. Internet access is a gateway to critical information, services and opportunities available to many people for the first time. Growth in internet access has been remarkable in low and middle income countries, where 2.9 billion people now access the internet on their mobile phones”, as set forth in the Mobile Gender Gap Report 2020,  by the GSMA Connected Women Programme*.

Below we review some of the main elements of said Report:

The use of mobile internet
Although the mobile gender gap in low and middle income countries is gradually closing, it is still significant. Whereas in 2017 women were 27% less likely than men to use mobile internet, the percentage has reduced to 20%. That translates into 54% of women now using mobile internet. Despite this promising tendency, the current gap still accounts for over 300 million fewer women than men accessing the internet on a mobile device.

Ownership of mobile phones
In low and middle income countries, there still exists an 8% difference in the mobile phone ownership, meaning that 165 million fewer women than men own a mobile phone. Although there is a slight improvement compared to previous years (when the difference was 10%), this gap has proven to be very difficult to close and masks a great social inequality. In fact women who could benefit the most from the use of mobile devices are far from having access to them.
A key factor is the possession of a smartphone, which is 20% lower for women.

Regarding the use of mobile services, on average, that of women is lower as well. For the operators, this represents an opportunity to increase the ARPU by equating use.


This Report, which resulted from a research in 15 low and medium income countries of Latin America, Asia and Africa of, defined 4 categories to group existing barriers to mobile ownership: affordability, literacy and digital skills, personal safety and data protection, and family disapproval.

As per mobile internet usage, the categories are: affordability, literacy and digital skills, personal safety and data protection, and relevance.

The mobile gender gap is a great problem and a great opportunity both for the industry and the society in general. 

As explained in the Report under analysis: “if by 2023 the mobile industry in low and middle income countries could close the gap regarding ownership and use of mobile phones, that would generate a 140-billion-dollar commercial opportunity”. “If it was possible to close the gap in the use of mobile internet (…) that would generate a 700-billion-dollar growth in the GDP.

Data shows there exist commercial and economic incentives to implement measures to help close such gap.

Lastly, this Report offers some recommendations to contribute to the elimination of the mobile gender gap, such as understanding and dealing with the needs of women and the barriers they face, and including them in the design and implementation of products and services. The guidelines offered by GSMA also comprise the improvement in the quality and availability of the data disaggregated by gender, so as to establish equality goals.

In commemoration of the International Women’s Day, we deem important to contribute to the dissemination of this Report, which helps us understand why there still exists a mobile gender gap and how to tackle the issue effectively.

Read the full article in English here

*The GSMA Connected Women Programme works with mobile operators and their partners to address the barriers to women accessing and using mobile internet and mobile money services.
Click the link for more information about this programme: https://www.gsma.com/mobilefordevelopment/connected-women/