Over 1.7 million females in middle-income countries don’t own mobile phones – Report

Mobile phoneOver 1.7 billion females in low- and middle-income countries do not own mobile phones; the GSMA’s Connected Women programme report has revealed.

The report dubbed “Bridging the Gender Gap: Mobile Access and Usage in Low- and Middle-income Countries”; said women on average were 14 per cent less likely to own a mobile phone than men, creating a gender gap of 200 million fewer women than men owning mobile phones.

The landmark report would unearth how and why there persists to be a gap in mobile phone ownership between men and women in 11 key emerging markets including Democratic Republic of the Congo, Niger and Kenya.

The report, which was made available to the Ghana News Agency on Wednesday, builds on the findings from the ‘Women and Mobile: A Global Opportunity’ report launched in 2010, which first highlighted the disparity in mobile phone ownership between men and women in low- and middle-income countries.

“The ubiquity and affordability of mobile presents us with the unprecedented opportunity to improve and enhance social and economic development; however, as our study shows, women in particular tend to be left behind as owners of mobile phones and as consumers of mobile services,” said Anne Bouverot, Director General, GSMA.

“By addressing the gender gap in mobile phone ownership and use, we will deliver substantial benefits for women, the mobile industry and the broader economy.”

This new large-scale study looks at how, in the five years since the benchmark study was launched, access to mobile phones has increased substantially and mobile phone penetration rates are accelerating rapidly in the developing world.

However, the study also finds that despite the progress that has been made, women continue to be left behind and challenges remain in ensuring that women are included in an increasingly connected and internet-enabled world.

It said women in South Asia were 38 per cent less likely to own a phone than men, highlighting that the gender gap in mobile phone ownership is wider in certain parts of the world.

The report said even when women own mobile phones, there was a significant gender gap in mobile phone usage preventing them from reaping the full benefits of mobile phone ownership.

It noted that women report using phones less frequently and intensively than men, especially for more sophisticated services such as mobile Internet.

The report said in most countries, fewer women than men who own phones report using messaging and data services beyond voice.

The report observed that the top five barriers to women owning and using mobile phones from a customer perspective were cost, network quality and coverage, security and harassment, operator/agent trust, and technical literacy and confidence.

It said social norms and disparities between men and women in terms of education and income influence women’s access to and use of mobile technology, and often contribute to women experiencing barriers to mobile phone ownership and use more acutely than men.

It said addressing the gender gap in mobile phone ownership and usage could deliver substantial socio-economic benefits for women, the mobile industry, and the economy.

According to the report ensuring women in low- and middle-income countries own and use mobile phones on par with men could unlock an estimated $170 billion four market opportunity for the mobile industry in the next five years and contribute to economic growth in these regions.

The report indicated that without targeted intervention from the mobile industry, policy-makers, and other stakeholders, the gender gap in ownership and use was unlikely to close naturally on its own.

Findings from this report were based on primary research as well as secondary sources.

Primary field research was conducted in 115 countries and included surveys with 11,000 women and men (both mobile phone owners and non-owners), approximately 80 focus group discussions, and interviews with over 120 experts.

The GSMA represents the interests of mobile operators worldwide, uniting nearly 800 operators with more than 250 companies in the broader mobile ecosystem, including handset and device makers, software companies, equipment providers and internet companies, as well as organisations in adjacent industry sectors.

Source: GNA

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