GSMA’s 2024 Report Shows Modest Progress with 4% Reduction in Africa’s Mobile Gender Gap

The report emphasized that the gender gap in mobile internet remains substantial, with approximately 785 million women in LMICs still not utilizing mobile internet, the majority residing in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.

In a bid to shed light on the digital gender gap prevalent in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), the GSMA unveiled its much-anticipated Mobile Gender Gap Report 2024 during a live webinar on Wednesday, May 16, 2024. Now in its seventh edition, the report delves into the latest data and insights surrounding women’s access to and usage of mobile internet services, showcasing both strides forward and lingering disparities.

The report’s unveiling coincided with a platform for industry leaders from organizations such as the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), Jio, and MTN Uganda to provide their reactions to the findings and deliberate on actionable strategies to promote digital inclusion for women across LMICs.

The data paints a picture of increasing connectivity among women in LMICs, with a staggering 1.5 billion, or 66%, now utilizing mobile internet. This marks a significant rise, with an additional 120 million women connecting to the internet via mobile in 2023 alone.

One of the most encouraging findings of the report was the narrowing of the mobile internet gender gap from 19% in 2022 to 15% in 2023, effectively reverting to 2020 levels. Mats Grandys, Director General of GSMA, expressed satisfaction at this trend reversal during the launch, stating, 

Last year, we didn’t have very good news to share about the gender gap in mobile internet… But today, I am pleased to say that we do have goodness. The mobile internet gender gap has started to narrow…That shows the power of working together.

Mats Granryd, Director General, GSMA

While South Asia saw a significant reduction in the gender gap, dropping from 41% in 2022 to 31% in 2023, Sub-Saharan Africa witnessed a more modest improvement, with the gap narrowing from 36% to 32% during the same period. Nevertheless, the report emphasized that the gender gap in mobile internet remains substantial, with approximately 785 million women in LMICs still not utilizing mobile internet, the majority residing in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. 

Data from the report focused on 12 surveyed countries, including Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal, Uganda, Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Pakistan, Guatemala, and Mexico also revealed that in 10 of these nations, women who use the internet are more likely than men to access it exclusively via mobile phones. Despite these strides, inequalities persist, with women still lagging behind men in mobile access and usage, particularly among underserved demographics such as those with low literacy levels, and incomes, or residing in rural areas. 

The report identifies key barriers hindering women’s full integration into the digital landscape. Affordability of handsets, literacy, and digital skills emerge as primary obstacles. Alarmingly, around 405 million women across LMICs still lack access to mobile phones, presenting a significant challenge in reaching underserved populations.

Moreover, while awareness of mobile internet is nearly equal between men and women, adoption rates vary, with women facing distinct hurdles such as safety concerns, affordability, and connectivity issues. 

Overall, while progress has been made, the report underscores the need for continued efforts to bridge the digital gender gap, particularly in regions where disparities remain pronounced. 

We have to make sure that we don’t lose focus because this gap is still significant. We need to target action from a range of stakeholders to solve this challenge. For many years now, we have worked with operators as part of the GSMA connected women initiative to drive digital and financial inclusion for women with some impressive results. Today, over 50 operators have made formal commitments to reach more women with mobile internet and mobile money services.

Mats Granryd, Director General, GSMA

As the world increasingly relies on digital connectivity, ensuring equal access and usage among all demographics is essential for fostering inclusive development and opportunity.

Read Full Report Here

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