A new report published by the GSMA reveals that over 800 million women in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) will need to adopt mobile internet by 2030 in order to bridge the digital gender gap. The sixth annual Mobile Gender Gap Report evaluates mobile ownership and mobile internet usage across LMICs in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.
The report highlights that the current gender disparity in mobile internet usage will persist without a concerted effort from various stakeholders. Currently, women in LMICs are 19% less likely than men to use mobile internet, resulting in approximately 310 million fewer women being connected.
If the gap remains unchanged, it is projected that only 360 million more women will start using mobile broadband by the end of the decade, falling significantly short of the 800 million target.
The Mobile Gender Gap Report provides a comprehensive analysis of mobile ownership and internet usage among women in LMICs, offering insights into the scale of the gender gap in different regions. It also identifies barriers to mobile adoption and provides recommended actions for stakeholders, including policymakers, regulators, mobile operators, and NGOs.
The report is funded by the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) through the GSMA Mobile for Development Foundation.
Key findings from the report indicate that while 61% of women across LMICs currently use mobile internet, the rate of adoption has slowed for the second consecutive year. In 2022, only 60 million women adopted mobile internet, compared to 75 million in 2021. Additionally, 900 million women in LMICs remain unconnected to mobile broadband, with the majority residing in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Barriers to mobile ownership and internet adoption include affordability, particularly concerning handsets, literacy and digital skills, and safety and security concerns.
However, once women own a smartphone, their awareness and use of mobile internet are almost on par with men. Approximately 17% fewer women than men own smartphones in LMICs, resulting in around 250 million fewer women with access.
The report emphasizes that mobile ownership and internet usage have significant benefits for women, their families, the economy, and businesses.
In order to address the slowing digital inclusion of women, the GSMA’s Director General, Mats Granryd, calls for greater collaboration among stakeholders, including governments, operators, NGOs, and internet companies, to ensure that women are not left behind in an increasingly digital world.