A new report by the GSMA estimates that closing the gender gaps in mobile ownership and usage represents an important commercial opportunity for the mobile industry and developing countries in the next five years.
According to GSMA’s 2019 Mobile Gender Gap Report released yesterday, closing the gender gap in mobile internet use across low- and middle-income countries could add $700 billion in GDP growth (representing an additional 0.7 per cent of GDP growth) in these countries over the next five years.
The report also added, “If mobile operators could close these gender gaps in low- and middle-income countries by 2023, this would provide an estimated additional $140 billion in revenue to the mobile industry over the next five years.”
The new GSMA study report also reveals that 80 per cent of women in low- and middle-income countries are now mobile owners after an additional 250m women joined the list from 2014. 1.7 billion women now own a mobile phone in LMICs and over a billion use mobile internet.
Mobile is the primary means of internet access in low and middle-income markets, where 48 per cent of women use mobile to get online.
“We are seeing significantly increased mobile access for women, however in an increasingly connected world, women are still being left behind,” said Mats Granryd, Director General, GSMA. “While mobile connectivity is spreading quickly, it is not spreading equally. Unequal access to mobile technology threatens to exacerbate the inequalities women already experience.”
Women’s lower levels of mobile ownership and use not only reflect existing gender inequalities, but also threaten to compound them. If the mobile gender gap is not addressed, women risk being left behind as societies and economies digitise. There are several distinct barriers to mobile ownership and use that affect a disproportionate number of women.
“Ensuring digital and financial inclusion for women is critically important, as we know that when women thrive, societies, businesses and economies thrive,” added Granryd. “Reaching the 432 million women in these countries who are still unconnected will require concerted effort and coordination from the mobile industry, as well as policy makers and the international community.”
Mobile can help empower women, making them more connected, safe and able to access information and services. Closing the mobile gender gap also represents a significant commercial and economic opportunity.
Mobile operators are taking action to address the mobile gender gap and leading an effort to drive digital and financial inclusion for women. As part of the GSMA Connected Women Programme’s Commitment Initiative, nearly 37 mobile operators from 27 countries across Africa, Asia and Latin America have committed to reducing the gender gap in their mobile money or mobile internet customer base by 2020.
These operators have provided over 16 million additional women with access to digital and financial services since 2016. Women highlighted affordability, literacy and digital skills, a perceived lack of relevance, and safety and security concerns as the top barriers needing to be addressed in order to further decrease the mobile gender gap.