• Monday, June 24, 2024
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Despite a booming digital landscape, about two-thirds of Nigerian adult women lack mobile internet access. This reality underscores a 38 percent gender gap in smartphone ownership, according to a new report by GSMA, the global industry body for mobile operators.

Only 33 percent of adult Nigerian women use mobile internet, GSMA revealed in its ‘The Mobile Gender Gap Report: 2024,’ which highlighted that 52 percent of men use mobile internet.

Mobile internet serves as Nigerians’ primary gateway to the internet and digital services. As of March 2024, there were 163.89 million mobile internet subscriptions. Adia Sowho, the chief marketing officer of MTN Nigeria, recently said at a company event, “Smartphones have become the computers for many Nigerians today.

Despite this, GSMA noted that women are still less likely than men to have access to mobile phones, mobile money, mobile internet, and other mobile services.

“Women are also less likely than men to have equal use of these services, particularly the most underserved women, including those who have low literacy levels, low incomes, live in a rural area or have a disability,” it said.

This digital divide isn’t unique to Nigeria. Across low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), 15 percent fewer women use mobile internet than men. This translates to 265 million fewer women excluded from the online world than men. Of the 785 million women who are not using mobile internet in low- and middle-income countries, around 60 percent live in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.

Generally, around 200 million fewer women than men own smartphones. 405 million women in low-income countries do not own a mobile phone. Globally, the gender gap in mobile internet usage dropped, primarily driven by South Asia. In 2023, more women across LMICs used mobile internet than ever before, with an additional 120 million women, 50 million more than in 2022. However, the widest gender gaps in mobile ownership and mobile internet adoption are in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.

While countries like Nigeria are doing better than others regarding mobile ownership, the gap in mobile internet usage persists. GSMA said. “Even in countries with small gender gaps in mobile ownership, the gender gap in mobile internet adoption can be wide, such as in Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal, Uganda and India.”

In Nigeria, 93 percent of men and 88 percent of women have phones. However, large gender gaps exist in smartphone ownership: Only 32 percent of women own smartphones compared to 51 percent of men.

“In these countries, the gender gap in smartphone ownership widened in three (Egypt, Nigeria, Mexico), narrowed in four (Indonesia, India, Guatemala, Pakistan) and remained unchanged in the remaining four (Ethiopia, Kenya, Senegal, Bangladesh),” GSMA noted.

The major hurdle to closing this gap is affordability (for both phones and data plans).

The industry body said: “Affordability is another top barrier to further mobile internet use for both male and female mobile internet users in survey countries. In most countries, the affordability of data is more of a barrier than the affordability of handsets. Data costs are a particular issue for mobile internet users in Kenya, Nigeria, Uganda, and Bangladesh, where it is the top individual barrier to further use for both men and women.”

Literacy and digital skills are also top barriers to mobile internet adoption, followed by safety and security concerns. In a recent Nigeria-focused report, GSMA stated that only 29 percent of Nigerians have regular access to mobile internet, leaving out 71 percent, underscoring significant usage gaps.