GSMA study, Telecom News, ET Telecom
Ashutosh Kumar and Ananya Gupta
NEW DELHI: According to GSMA findings, India’s progress in closing the gender gap in smartphone access and mobile internet usage has stagnated, especially during the last year. The body said there had been negligible growth in the proportion of women using mobile internet and almost no growth in smartphone ownership.
“In India you can see the prices are affordable, they are low like 10 dollars, but for low income [citizens], it may still be unaffordable. But there are also social norm issues in India where it doesn’t always seem acceptable for women to own a phone or go online, security issues are also a barrier,” said Claire Sibthorpe, Head of of Connected Women and Connected Society at the GSMA. said, in response to a question from ETtelecom during a press briefing.
“For women in India, affordability is a challenge and some of those social norms are that they feel it is not acceptable or appropriate for a woman to have a smartphone or to go online,” explained Sibthorpe.
While smartphone ownership and mobile internet usage in India has been steadily increasing for men since 2019, the story is different for women. Although there was a significant jump from 2019 to 2020 when market conditions and COVID-related lockdowns allowed women to get smartphones and use mobile internet, over the past year , the proportion of women using mobile internet has not increased and almost no growth in smartphone ownership, the GSMA said in its Mobile Gender Gap 2022 report.
By comparison, the proportion of Indian men using mobile internet over the same period rose from 45% to 51%, and smartphone ownership rose from 41% to 49%, according to the findings.
On a larger scale, the GSMA found that from 2017 to 2020 there was rapid growth in the number of people using mobile internet. “Women have experienced disproportionately higher growth than men, closing the overall gender gap in mobile internet in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) year-on-year from 25% in 2017 15% in 2020.”
In the LMICs, from 2020 to 2021, an additional 59 million women started using mobile internet. However, this increase is much lower than in previous years and is lower than the growth for men over the same period, he noted.
“As a result, in 2021 the gender gap in mobile internet use in LMICs has widened slightly to 16%, meaning women are now 16% less likely than men to ‘use mobile internet,’ the report says, adding that this equates to 264 million fewer women than men using mobile internet. The top three barriers to mobile ownership for men and women are respectively affordability, literacy and digital skills, and safety and security.
The London-based company recommends that there is an explicit need to address women’s needs and challenges in the design and implementation of mobile-related products, services, interventions and policies.
He stressed that targeted intervention is needed from industry, policy makers, the development community and other stakeholders to ensure that women are no longer left behind, and also by focusing more on gender equality and reaching women at the organizational and political level, among other measures. to close the gender gap in mobile telephony.