How Much Access to Mobile Internet Do Women Have in 2021?

Published June 30th, 2021 - 03:00 GMT
woman using phone
85% of internet connections across the world are accessed using mobile phones. (Shutterstock: ImYanis)

Fighting to bridge the gender gap is often talked about in the context of civil rights and financial parity. But an increasingly important aspect of the gender gap is how much access women have to the internet and mobile internet in comparison to that of men in today's world.

Tracking women's access to the internet world does not only speak of a more equal status they have in their societies, but it also has deeper implications on their overall status in the 21st century, particularly when we talk about low and middle-income countries, where women tend to have a harder time having access to education or taking part in the professional world.

While it is only natural to see an overall rise in internet and smartphone usage during 2020, thanks to the pandemic that has restricted the movement of almost every human being on planet Earth, this year has been quite critical for women in particular, as their inability to leave their households required them to rely almost completely on the internet for information, services, shopping for basic needs, in addition to receiving education and taking working from home posts.

Recently, the 2021 Mobile Gender Gap report was released, exploring changes that may have affected women's ownership of smart devices and ability to access the internet, considering the vital role played by the global network in offering all sorts of information and services, especially ones that have been made available in the wake of the COVID19 outbreak.

The report acknowledges the connection between women's use of the internet using their mobile phones and their education levels, their safety, their autonomy, in addition to it serving as a major tool for women to offer their contributions to their communities.

Surveying more than 9,000 people in 8 middle-income countries LMIC countries during the period October 2020 and January 2021, the study found out that 83% of women own mobile devices, 58% of which have regular access to the internet. According to findings, women are 15% less likely to own a smartphone than men. 

In the Middle East and North Africa, 83% of women do have access to mobile internet, with almost 23 million women being completely disconnected from the world. The MENA region ranked third lowest in terms of women's access to the internet, following South Asia where women's access to mobile internet accounted for near 67% and their counterparts in Africa ranked second with 75%.

Exploring reasons that may lay behind such numbers, the study highlights lower literacy rates for women in these three main regions of the world, which could explain the relatively higher figures when it comes to access to the internet, especially considering that digital literacy is still work in progress in these regions.

Moreover, the study mentions non-working women's disadvantage when it comes to purchasing mobile internet packages in communities where women's participation in the marketplace continues to be less than needed. All of these factors are also linked to social norms that are not in favor of women it comes to using technology or receiving education, despite the numerous changes that have taken place over the last three decades.

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