Today, more than 3 billion people in low- and middle-income countries do not own mobile phones, and 1.7 billion of them are estimated to be women, according to the GSMA's 2015 report on Connected Women. Women on average are 14 per cent less likely to own a mobile phone than men, which translates into 200 million fewer women than men owning mobile phones.
However, the overall figure also masks greater inequalities at regional and country level. For example, the gender gap for Sub-Saharan Africa is 13 per cent, but the GSMA report found there was a 45 per cent gender gap in mobile phone ownership in Niger and a 33 per cent gender gap in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
The benefits to getting these women connected are huge. The GSMA claims that ensuring women in low- and middle-income countries own and use mobile phones on a par with men could unlock an estimated $170 billion (€149.4 billion) market opportunity for the mobile industry in the next five years. What's more, mobile phones and access to mobile services and content provide significant social and economic benefits for the women themselves, as well as their families and local communities.
Despite these benefits, women in many regions are still being left behind. This is due to a variety of reasons ranging from affordability through to cultural barriers, and indicates that much more needs to be done. While there is no silver bullet to closing the gender gap, there is a great deal that companies and other organisations can and are doing to speed the process.
Read our new special report to find out what the GSMA, Orange, Ericsson and others are doing to empower women in low- to middle-income countries.--Anne