Industry body the GSMA said in its new report over 800 million women from low and middle-income countries (LMIC) across Africa, Asia and Latin America, must adopt mobile internet to close the digital gender gap by 2030.
The GSMA said in a statement it found in its figures: “The gulf between the numbers of men and women using mobile internet will not be closed without an enhanced effort by a broad range of stakeholders.”
It also noted progress in reducing the mobile internet gender gap “remains stalled”, as women in LMICs are 19% less likely than men to use it, which equates to around 310 million fewer women than men.
Current forecasts suggest only 360 million more women, half of the 800 million targets, will take up mobile broadband by 2030.
Other findings include that two-thirds (61%) of women across LMICs now use mobile internet, but adoption has slowed for the second year in a row. As only 60 million women adopted mobile internet in 2022, a drop off from 75 million in 2021.
Around 900 million women are not connected to mobile connectivity, two-thirds live in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.
The study also found once women own a smartphone their awareness and use of mobile internet is on par with men. But women ate still 17% less likely to own a smartphone in LMICs, equating to 250 million fewer women than men, noted the GSMA. There are 440 million women in this segment that do not own a mobile phone and encounter difficulties attaining one.
Barriers to mobile internet adoption are still affordability (particularly for handset procurement), literacy and digital skills, and safety and security concerns.
“Mobile phones are the primary, and often only, source of internet access in LMICs, particularly in rural communities, so it’s alarming to see women’s digital inclusion slow for the second year in a row,” said Mats Granryd, Director General of the GSMA.
“Greater collaboration across all stakeholders in the digital community, from governments to operators, NGOs to internet companies, is needed to enable more women to access and use mobile internet and ultimately ensure women are not being left behind in an increasingly digital world.”