Mobile gender gap narrows in developing markets

Mobile gender gap narrows in developing markets

Over 1.5 billion women used mobile internet in 2023 in developing nations, as women are adopting connectivity faster than men, according to the GSMA.

Detailed In the industry body’s latest Mobile Gender Gap Report, the gender gap in mobile adoption narrowed for the first time since 2020 in low-and middle-income countries (LMICs), from 19% in 2022 to 15% in 2023.

Women are now 15% less likely than men to use mobile internet in LMICs. However, over 785 million women in developing countries remain unconnected.

Around 940 million (40%) still do not own a smartphone, and 1.4 billion women (60%) have one.

In 2023, the smartphone gender gap narrowed from 15% to 13% across LMICs, driven by women in South Asia who cut the gap from 41% to 34%.

The body estimated that by closing the gender gap, the mobile industry could gain US$230 billion in revenue over an eight-year period.


India, one of the world’s largest mobile markets, saw a massive rise of 37% among women as adoption among men remain stable, cutting the gap from 40% to 30%.

In Indonesia, the rate of adoption from women exceeded men with the gap now at 8% from 15%.

Sub-Saharan Africa saw a slight narrowing in the gender gap for the first time in five years, from 36% to 32% year-on-year. Although women in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa are still less likely to use mobile internet compared to men, with gaps of 31% and 32% respectively.

Mobile connectivity is primary access to the internet for people in developing countries, accounting for 84% of broadband connections in 2023.

Barriers to gaining a handset and connectivity are affordability, literacy and digital skills. Affordability is a key challenge for women due to the gender pay gap and lower employment rates, stated the GSMA.

The industry body acknowledged barriers to mobile adoption is shaped by country rather than gender, but women still lag behind men in using mobile internet. This discrepancy is partly due to social norms and structural inequalities such as unequal access to education and income.  

Claire Sibthorpe, GSMA Head of Digital Inclusion said the decrease in the mobile internet gender gap was “promising” but conceded maintaining this growth was “fragile”.


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