About 80 per cent of women in low and middle-income countries are now mobile device owners, owing to improving technology ecosystem globally.

The Global System for Mobile Communications Association (GSMA) 2019 Mobile Gender Gap Report released yesterday, confirmed this, adding that mobile is the primary means of Internet access in these markets, where 48 per cent of women use mobile to get online.

GSMA noted that women’s mobile phone ownership has increased significantly in low and middle income countries since 2014. The number of women who own a mobile has risen by over 250 million, with 80 per cent of women across these markets now owning a mobile phone

However, despite the growth in connectivity, GSMA said the gender gap in mobile ownership is not closing. The body, which represents the interest of over 1200 companies globally, noted that women remain 10 per cent less likely than men to own a mobile phone in low- and middle-income countries, and 23 per cent less likely than men to use mobile Internet.

The mobile gender gap varies by region and country, but is widest in South Asia, where women are 28 per cent less likely than men to own a mobile device and 58 per cent less likely to use the mobile internet.

Specifically, sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) statistics, where Nigeria belongs, showed that there is still 15 per cent gap in ownership, while mobile ownership rate for women is 69 per cent with 86 million females connected.

Director-General, GSMA, Mats Granryd, said: “We are seeing significantly increased mobile access for women, however in an increasingly connected world, women are still being left behind. While mobile connectivity is spreading quickly, it is not spreading equally. Unequal access to mobile technology threatens to exacerbate the inequalities women already experience.”

But Jumia Mobile Report 2018, obtained by The Guardian, which puts mobile penetration at 84 per cent in 2017, compared to 53 per cent in 2016, revealed that more males, about 63 per cent purchased more phones compared to females’ 37 per cent.

Jumia said the mobile industry plays an increasingly important role in the socio-economic development of the region. It stressed that mobile connectivity has become the main platform for innovation and the driving force for greater inclusion; while the mobile ecosystem, which includes mobile network operators and device vendors – contributes significantly to economic growth and job creation.

But the work to bridge the mobile gender gap continues. Granryd revealed that 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. “Ensuring digital and financial inclusion for women is critically important, as we know that when women thrive, societies, businesses and economies thrive.

“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,” Granryd stated,

The report noted that women highlighted affordability, literacy and digital skills, a perceived lack of relevance, and safety and security concerns as top barriers to be addressed to further decrease the mobile gender gap.

The GSMA found that closing the gender gaps in mobile ownership and usage represents a substantial commercial opportunity for the mobile industry. According to it, over the next five years, low- and middle-income countries could gain an estimated additional $140 billion in mobile industry revenue if operators could close these gender gaps by 2023.

The GSMA also found that closing the mobile gender gap could be an important driver of economic growth. These markets could also add an additional $700 billion in GDP growth by 2023.


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