The catch is that the gender gap in both mobile phone ownership and mobile internet use remains significant. A recent study of ten countries across Africa, Asia, and South America found that—regardless of their age, education, wealth, or location—women are almost 40 percent less likely than men to have used the internet.
There are a lot of reasons why this gap exists. Cost, literacy (both digital and otherwise), and social norms are three of the big ones. In response, mobile phone companies who are eager to tap into this market are creating business strategies that target women customers. In Kenya and Nigeria, gender and development programs are putting new focus on teaching women digital literacy skills. We’ve partnered with an initiative at the Harvard Kennedy School to begin testing solutions to the social norms barrier.