GSMA Results of New Mobile Phone Gender Gap Survey

The GSMA on the 3rd of March 2015 released ‘Bridging the Gender Gap: Mobile Access and Usage in Low- and Middle-income Countries’, a report that examines mobile phone ownership by women, as well as the barriers to mobile phone adoption and usage and identifies actionable opportunities for stakeholders across the mobile ecosystem to accelerate the uptake of mobile technology by women. The report builds on the findings from the ‘Women and Mobile: A Global Opportunity’ report launched in 2010, which first highlighted the disparity in mobile phone ownership between men and women in low- and middle-income countries.

This new large-scale study looks at how, in the five years since the benchmark study was launched, access to mobile phones has increased substantially and mobile phone penetration rates are accelerating rapidly in the developing world. However, the study also finds that despite the progress that has been made, women continue to be left behind and challenges remain in ensuring that women are included in an increasingly connected and internet-enabled world.

“The ubiquity and affordability of mobile presents us with the unprecedented opportunity to improve and enhance social and economic development; however, as our study shows, women in particular tend to be left behind as owners of mobile phones and as consumers of mobile services,” said Anne Bouverot, Director General, GSMA. “By addressing the gender gap in mobile phone ownership and use, we will deliver substantial benefits for women, the mobile industry and the broader economy.”

The research showed that over 1.7 billion females in low- and middle-income countries do not own mobile phones and women on average are 14 per cent less likely to own a mobile phone than men, creating a gender gap of 200 million fewer women than men owning mobile phones. In particular, women in South Asia are 38 per cent less likely to own a phone than men, highlighting that the gender gap in mobile phone ownership is wider in certain parts of the world. Interestingly, even when women own mobile phones, there is a significant disparity in mobile phone usage, with women using phones less frequently than men, especially for more sophisticated services such as mobile internet. In most countries surveyed, fewer women than men who own phones report using messaging and data services beyond voice.
The top five barriers to women owning and using mobile phones from a customer perspective are cost; network quality and coverage; security and harassment via mobile; operator or agent trust; and technical literacy and confidence issues. Social norms and disparities between men and women in terms of education and income influence women’s access to and use of mobile technology, and often contribute to women experiencing barriers to mobile phone ownership and use more acutely than men.


Kenya has a rapidly growing unique subscriber unique subscriber penetration and a relatively small gender gap in mobile ownership of 7%. Interestingly, however, the gender gap is much higher in poorer, rounding up to 16%. Nevertheless, the market remains fairly basic with only 14% of all connections 3G, with ARPS stable at $10. Safaricom, blatantly has the dominant market share, followed by Airtel and then Orange.
Social Norms around Mobile

Although Kenya’s ranking on gender equality of WEF’s global index is fairly good relative to the other 10 study countries. It still has a gender gap in ownership of 7%. A combination of factors including financial independence and education levels can inhibit women access to and usage of mobile, singularly at more sophisticated usages.

Stages of mobile access and usage

-Obtain a SIM and Handest

-Women are less likely to play a role in selecting a handset and only 58% of women handset owners report of selecting their own handset compared to their male counterparts who averaged to 75%.

-Nonetheless, most women report independently choosing their own SIM, averaging to 75% relative to 79% of men.

-Obtain Credit

-Kenyan women are fairly autonomous when it comes to buying credit.

-Akin to men, women also engage in various means of buying credit, with 98% of them reporting that they had used a scratch card in the last four weeks, while 65% had used mobile money, and 62% had received credit from another person.


-Generally, SMS use virtually the same between the men and women.

-However, women are less likely to use mobile internet, especially among the less educated; only 33% of less educated owners versus 52% of men report mobile internet usage.


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