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The Mobile Gender Gap Report 2021

The Mobile Gender Gap Report 2021

Women’s access to mobile internet continues to increase across low- and middle-income countries with 112 million additional female users getting online in 2020. Despite this, the mobile gender gap remains substantial. Women are 7% less likely than men to own a mobile phone and 15% less likely to use mobile internet. There are still 234 million fewer women than men accessing mobile internet. With the COVID-19 pandemic evolving across the world, there has never been a more urgent time to address this issue.

This report highlights how the mobile gender gap continues to improve in South Asia, but less so in other regions. It explores the key barriers preventing women’s equal access to mobile internet as well as the rise of women’s smartphone ownership, notably in India.

Findings from this report are based on results from over 9,000 face-to-face surveys across eight low- and middle-income countries, and subsequent modelling and analysis of this survey data. This year, additional qualitative research was conducted in India and Kenya to develop a more nuanced understanding of women’s access to and use of mobile internet, especially in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Key Findings

  • Women’s access to mobile internet continues to increase across low- and middle-income countries, while mobile ownership remains relatively flat: 83% of women own a mobile phone and 58 per cent use mobile internet.
  • The gender gap in mobile internet use continues to reduce, with women in low- and middle-income countries 15 per cent less likely to use it than men.
  • While the overall gender gap in mobile ownership remains largely unchanged since 2017, the gender gap in smartphone ownership has reduced for the first time since then, driven by South Asia where these gaps have consistently been widest.
  • Mobile owners are using their phones for a wider range of activities, with notable increases in the use of mobile internet for video calls, listening to music and watching videos.
  • The gender gap in awareness of mobile internet continues to reduce across all countries surveyed, with awareness continuing to increase for both men and women.
  • Mobile users who are aware of mobile internet but do not use it report that the main barriers to use are a lack of literacy and digital skills and affordability, particularly the cost of an internet enabled handset.
  • Female mobile users feel less able than male users to learn a new activity on a phone by themselves. However, once they have done a task, their confidence in being able to do it again is almost on par with male users.

Contents

  • Introduction
  • The mobile gender gap in 2021
  • The journey to mobile internet use
  • The gender gap in mobile ownership
  • The gender gap in smartphone ownership
  • The growing awareness of mobile internet
  • The gender gap in mobile internet use
  • Understanding women’s mobile use
  • Recommendations
  • Appendix 1: Barriers to mobile ownership and mobile internet use
  • Appendix 2: Methodology
  • Endnotes

 

This report was originally published on the GSMA website. 

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