There are more men owning smartphones in Kenya compared to women giving them an advantage of opportunities in the internet space, a new GSMA consumer survey reveals
The number of smartphone ownership among men in 2020 went up by four per cent to 47 per cent compared to 2019 ownership at 42 per cent. Ownership among women stagnated at 32 per cent where it was in 2019.
The study found a majority of women controlling the share of basic phones compared to men with this category of gadgets has grown by three per cent to 34 per cent in 2020 from 31 per cent in 2019. Men’s control of basic phone share though behind female counterpart grew by three per cent to 25 per cent in 2020 from 23 per cent in 2019.
There is a decline in ownership of feature phones across the gender with the adoption of gadget in this category falling 9 per cent among men in 2020 to 14 per cent from 23 per cent in 2019. The number women opting for feature phones in the country declined by 8 per cent to 11 per cent in 2020 compared to 19 per cent in 2019.
The respondents in the research highlighted that the economic impact of Covid-19 pandemic has been felt acutely in Kenya, especially by women.
“While overall mobile ownership remains largely unchanged among men in Kenya and smartphone ownership has grown, overall mobile ownership declined slightly for women, and the proportion of women who own a smartphone has not increased,” the study says.
“In addition, Kenya was the only survey country where the gender gap in mobile internet use has widened, from 34 per cent in 2019 to 42 per cent in 2020. Women’s mobile internet use remained flat over this period while use increased for men.”
The findings in the report draw on the annual GSMA Consumer Survey, which this year had over 9,000 respondents from eight LMICs.
The face-to-face survey was conducted between October 4 last year and January 8, 2021.
Additional qualitative research was conducted in Kenya11 and India12 to develop a more nuanced understanding of women’s access to and use of mobile internet, especially in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The GSMA report showed an estimated 112 million more women started using mobile internet last year across low- and middle-income countries. Nevertheless, 234 million fewer women than men access mobile internet. Moreover, the underlying gender gap in mobile ownership persists and is proving difficult to close.
Affordability, lack of literacy and digital skills, and lower awareness of mobile internet are critical and common barriers for women. Structural inequalities in society and discriminative social norms also remain a challenge. Even when women have the same levels of education, income, literacy, and employment as men, they are still less likely to own a mobile phone or use mobile internet.
Women were more likely than men to access the internet exclusively via mobile in almost all markets surveyed. In Kenya, for example, 63 per cent of male internet users said they only used the internet via a mobile device compared to 79 per cent of females. This reliance by women on mobile demonstrates the disproportionate benefit of increasing their access.
“If women are to become equal citizens in a more digital, post-COVID world, closing the mobile gender gap has never been more critical,” said Mats Granryd, Director General, of the 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.”