The mobile gender gap in Bangladesh is decreasing as a record number of women now use mobile services, says a report.
This helped the gender gap in mobile ownership fall to 24% last year from 29% in 2019 despite the Covid-19 pandemic.
On the other hand, the gender gap in mobile internet use declined to 41% from 52% in 2019, according to GSMA's 2021 Mobile Gender Gap Report.
Released on 17 June, the report estimated that in low- and middle-income countries, around 112 million more women started using mobile internet last year. Nevertheless, 234 million fewer women than men access mobile internet.
In Bangladesh, 75% of men and 66% of women are aware of mobile internet, but only 33% of men and 19% of women use it.
Besides, 64% of the total female population aged over 18 are using mobile services. Men's mobile ownership is 84%.
"This reliance by women on mobile demonstrates the disproportionate benefit of increasing their access," says the report.
Moreover, there are significant variations among different age groups of men's and women's mobile ownership. The gender gap in mobile ownership is 17% among those aged between 18 and 24, but it is 46% for those over 55.
Gender gap in mobile internet use in South Asia falling
A record number of women in South Asia now use mobile internet services, helping shrink the gender gap to 15% last year from 19% in 2019 in low- and middle-income countries despite the onset of Covid-19.
South Asia has seen a significant reduction in the mobile internet use gender gap from 36% in 2020 from 50% in 2019.
In India, more women now own mobile phones, particularly smartphones, which caused the gender gap of mobile users to stand at 15% in 2020 from 20% in 2019.
Pakistan has a wider gender gap in mobile ownership and mobile internet use, with 34% and 43% respectively.
Barriers to mobile internet use for women
As mobile internet adoption continues to rise among both men and women, GSMA, an industry organisation representing the interests of mobile network operators worldwide, has identified literacy and skills, affordability, and safety and security as the top three barriers for female mobile users who are aware of mobile internet.
Other possible reasons are digital skills, a lack of awareness, structural inequalities in society, and discriminative social norms.
The report states even though women may have the same levels of education, income, literacy, and employment as men, they are still less likely to use mobile internet.
It says female mobile users feel less able than males to learn a new activity on a phone by themselves.
"If women are to become equal citizens in a more digital, post-Covid-19 world, closing the mobile gender gap has never been more critical," says Mats Granryd, director general of GSMA.
"I urge policymakers, the private sector, and the international community to take note of the important findings laid out in the Mobile Gender Gap Report because only concerted action and collaboration will enable women and their families to reap the full benefits of connectivity."