Despite years of progress towards women’s equal digital inclusion across low- and-middle income countries (LMICs), 59 million additional women started using mobile internet in 2021 compared to 110 million in 2020, according to a GSMA Mobile Gender Gap Report 2022.
The expansion of mobile internet access in LMICs is continuing at pace, but risks leaving women further behind, the analysis said.
This recent slowdown in the growth rate at which women are adopting the mobile internet across LMICs is in contrast with continued high growth rates for men. In total, only 60% of women in LMICs now use the mobile internet, compared to 71% of men.
Across LMICs, the report shows that the mobile internet gender gap has narrowed every year from 2017 to 2020, from 25% to 15%. However, GSMA data from 2021 suggests that this momentum has been lost. Women are now 16% less likely than men to use the mobile internet, which equates to 264 million fewer women than men using mobile internet.
In South Asia, the gap is more stark. The mobile internet gender gap had narrowed significantly, from 67% in 2017 to 36% in 2020, but has now widened to 41%.
GSMA director general Mats Granryd said: “For decades, mobile internet has been transforming the lives of women across the globe, especially in low- and middle-income countries. But the worrying statistics in our Mobile Gender Gap Report 2022 show that far more needs to be done to prevent women being left behind in the digital economy. Institutions, corporations and governments around the world need to focus on the importance of inclusion, and actively seek to combat such inequalities.”
According to GSMA, mobile remains the primary way women access the internet across LMICs. “In particular, the Covid-19 pandemic has demonstrated the importance of mobiles as a valuable tool for helping women access health information, stay connected to their families during lockdowns, continue income-generating opportunities and access government support,” the report said.