“I can say WhatsApp has helped me since I can take photos of my vegetables on the farm and ask someone if they would want such fresh vegetables. So, it is helping me to sell my vegetables.”
The above statement was made by a Kenyan woman in Nyanza, a rural community in Kenya. Her experience, no doubt shared by many others, highlights the significance of mobile ownership.
In recent times, there’s been a proliferation of mobile phones. Access to internet-enabled phones is no longer limited to the rich and famous.
Even in low and middle-income countries, mobile is the primary means through which people can access the internet. This, in turn, provides them access to new information and opportunities.
As of April 2021, one study reveals that there are 4.72 billion (approximately 60.1% of the world’s population), internet users, across the globe.
What contributes to this number is that there is more mobile internet adoption, particularly by women. Accordingly, the recently published GSMA Mobile Gender Gap Report 2021 estimates that 112 million more women across low and middle-income countries have started using mobile internet in 2020 despite the outbreak of COVID-19.
Per the survey, 83% of women in low and middle-income countries now own a mobile phone and 58% use mobile internet. Despite this figure, mobile ownership and internet usage still remain unequal as women are being left behind in a rapidly increasingly digital world.
Gender gap in mobile ownership in low- and middle-income countries, by region
The report further reveals that 234 million fewer women than men access mobile internet. At a regional level, the gender gap in mobile internet use is highest in Sub-Saharan Africa. Globally, Kenya, Bangladesh and Pakistan are three countries where the gap is the greatest globally.
This unequal access to mobile internet deprives women of access to crucial information and services online, as well as opportunities to meet their life needs in an increasingly digital society.
The GSMA report findings include some of the factors that contribute to the mobile internet gender gap such as:
- Illiteracy and lack of digital skills
In almost all the countries surveyed, it was discovered that women were more likely than men to access the internet exclusively through mobile.
For example, in Kenya, 63% of male internet users said they only used the internet via a mobile device compared to 79% of females. Women’s reliance on mobile underscores the disproportionate benefit of increasing their access.
Buttressing this point, Mats Granryd, Director General, GSMA said, “If women are to become equal citizens in a more digital, post-COVID world, closing the mobile gender gap has never been more critical.
I urge policymakers, the private sector, and the international community to take note of the important findings laid out in the Mobile Gender Gap Report because only concerted action and collaboration will enable women and their families to reap the full benefits of connectivity.”
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