Over the past two years, the COVID-19 pandemic has reinforced the importance of access to mobile and mobile internet. Mobile phones have enabled people to mitigate some of the negative impacts of the pandemic by providing ongoing access to information, health care, education, e-commerce, financial services and income-generating opportunities. Yet, the pandemic has also highlighted the stark digital divide, and those without access to mobile phones and mobile internet are at risk of being left even further behind.
In a 2021 report, the GSMA highlighted that the COVID-19 pandemic did not yet appear to be having a negative overall impact on women’s mobile ownership and use. This was despite the broad and well-documented negative impacts of the pandemic on women. One year on, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to disproportionately affect women and the impact on women’s digital inclusion is coming into focus. After years of progress towards women’s equal digital inclusion, there is a slowdown and, in some cases, a reversal. Significant and coordinated efforts are urgently needed to ensure that women do not continue to be disproportionately impacted by the ongoing pandemic and left behind in a more digitised society. Closing the mobile gender gap has never been more critical.
This GSMA report provides
- Updated figures on gender gaps in mobile ownership, smartphone ownership and mobile internet use in LMICs and how these figures have changed over time;
- A review of the barriers to mobile phone ownership and mobile internet use;
- New data on men’s and women’s autonomy in purchasing mobile phones; and
- Qualitative insights from India and Kenya that highlight how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected women’s use of mobile internet and access to smartphones.