The GSMA has launched the Mobile Gender Gap Report 2023 report with eleven key findings that stakeholders will likely ponder throughout the year.  

The report noted that in an increasingly connected world, it is critical that no one is left behind. It also disclosed that in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), mobile phones are the primary and often the only way people get online, especially women.

“More than 3.4 billion people in LMICs now access the internet on a mobile phone,1 accounting for 85% of broadband connections in 2022. In all 12 countries surveyed for this report, female internet users were more likely than male users to access the internet exclusively via a mobile phone. A total of 61% of
women in LMICs now use mobile internet and 81% own a mobile phone,” the report said.

Here are the 11 findings

  • More women in low- and middle-income countries are using mobile internet than ever before, but their rate of adoption has slowed for the second year in a row. While 61% of women across these countries now use mobile internet, only 60 million women started using mobile internet in 2022 compared to 75 million in 2021. Men’s rate of adoption also slowed in 2022, highlighting that progress on digital inclusion for all has stalled across low- and middle-income countries.
  • The gender gap in mobile internet remains relatively unchanged – women in low- and middle-income countries are 19% less likely than men to use it, which translates into around 310 million fewer women than men. This year there have been no significant changes in the mobile internet gender gap in any region, including South Asia where there have been notable changes in the past few years.
  • To close the mobile internet gender gap by 2030 across low- and middle-income countries, an estimated 810 million women need to adopt it. This is equivalent to 100 million women a year, on average. However, if the gender gap remains unchanged, forecasts suggest that only 360 million more women will adopt mobile internet by 2030.
  • There are 900 million women in low- and middle-income countries who are still not using mobile internet, almost two-thirds of whom live in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. Women in these regions remain the least likely to use mobile internet compared to men, with gender gaps of 41% and 36%, respectively.
  • Women were more likely than men to report they had reduced their use of mobile internet in 2022, especially those who live in rural areas and are less educated. Across all survey countries, women also tend to use their mobile phones for a narrower range of activities and use mobile internet less regularly than men.
  • The gender gap in smartphone ownership has stalled for the second year in a row, and women in low- and middle-income countries are 17% less likely than men to own a smartphone. This translates into around 250 million fewer women than men. While more men and women own a smartphone than ever before, the rate of adoption for both has slowed down slightly. 55% of women now own a smartphone compared to 67% of men. However, once women own a smartphone, their awareness and use of mobile internet is almost on par with men.
  • The underlying gender gap in mobile ownership across low- and middle-income countries has changed very little since 2017. Women across these countries are 7% less likely than men to own a mobile phone. 440 million women still do not own one and are proving difficult to reach. The top-reported barriers to mobile phone ownership are affordability, literacy and digital skills and lack of perceived relevance. Women who do not own a phone were more likely than men to report that being able to use someone else’s phone made them feel they did not need one of their own.
  • Women are still less likely than men to be aware of mobile Internet across low-and middle-income countries. Although awareness has grown only marginally since 2019, gender gaps have been narrowing consistently. In most survey countries, awareness is relatively high but does not always translate into adoption.
  • For mobile users who are already aware of mobile internet, the top-reported barriers to adopting it are still affordability (primarily of handsets), literacy and digital skills, and safety and security concerns. Millions more women than men face these barriers because they are offline. Women also tend to experience these barriers more acutely due to social norms and structural inequalities, such as lower education and income.
  • Most people who use mobile internet believe it has had a positive impact on their lives and use it every day, with little difference between women and men. This suggests that once women use mobile internet, it improves their lives to a similar degree as men. In all survey countries, between 53% and 91%.
  • of mobile internet users report a positive overall impact on their lives. Despite concerns associated with the internet, in almost all survey countries less than a fifth of mobile internet users reported a negative overall impact on their life.
  • Closing the gender gap in mobile ownership and use in low- and middle-income countries by 2030 would deliver an estimated $230 billion in additional revenue to the mobile industry. The vast majority of this opportunity would be derived from closing the gender gap in mobile use.

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