Bangladesh has the highest gender gap in mobile internet usage among ten low and middle-income countries (LMICs) according to the latest GSMA's Mobile Gender Gap Report 2022.
The gap widened in 2021, with around 48% of women less likely to use mobile internet than men. The gap was 41% in 2020.
About 36% of men in the country use mobile internet against 19% of women, stated the report based on the GSMA Consumer Survey 2021.
Dr Fahmida Khatun, executive director of the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD), said, "There is a direct economic impact of this situation because lack of access to the internet and devices mean lack of access to information which will eventually end up in lack of skill."
She said the gender gap was keeping Bangladeshi women away from the labour market and businesses.
Fahmida further said a higher gap means a higher digital divide and a further fall in human capital development.
The survey covered 10 low and middle-income countries — four from Africa, four from Asia, and two from Latin America.
In India, the gender gap in mobile internet use is 41%, the second-highest among the surveyed countries.
It is followed by Kenya and Pakistan, which holds a 38% gender gap each.
Egypt, Senegal, and Nigeria have a gender gap of 12%, 16%, and 36%, respectively.
Meanwhile, Indonesia's gender gap is 8%, the lowest among the four Asian countries.
Two Latin American countries, Guatemala and Mexico, account for a 14% and 3% gender gap, respectively.
The gender gap in mobile internet usage was also higher than the gender gap in mobile ownership in Bangladesh.
About 84% of men in Bangladesh own a mobile phone, while 65% of women have one, with the gender gap in this respect coming to 23%, the second-highest among the countries.
However, the gap has shrunk compared to 2020, which was 24%.
The report stressed that only 59 million additional women in LMICs started using mobile internet in 2021. The number was 110 million in 2020.
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 from being left behind in the digital economy," he added.
He further said, "Institutions, corporations and governments around the world need to focus on the importance of inclusion, and actively seek to combat such inequalities."
The Global System for Mobile Communication (GSMA) has identified and ranked three top barriers to mobile internet use among Bangladeshi female users: Literacy and digital skills, affordability, safety and security.
All the 10 countries were surveyed in 2021, and a nationally representative sample of approximately 1,000 male and female adults aged 18 and over were surveyed, except India, where the sample was around 2,000.
Significant increase in Value Added Mobile Services
"Bangladesh has had the most notable increases in weekly use of value-added mobile services between 2020 and 2021, when women mobile owners increased their use of education services by 21 percentage points, paid entertainment services by 16 percentage points, health services by 14 percentage points and both government services and job applications by 12 percentage points. These increases in a wide variety of use cases signal a promising shift in how mobile is providing value to female owners in Bangladesh," the report says.