Why are women in developing nations less likely to have phones?

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Mobile growth has remained steady in the developed world due to the fact that pretty much everyone already has a mobile device, but things are different in developing nations. These nations are still playing catch-up and with many of them experiencing economic and technological booms, mobile growth is exploding. However, this growth isn’t even distributed across all demographics and, in many of these developing nations, women have far less access to mobile devices than men do. 

Mobile phones are seeing increased uptake across the developing world, but adoption of the tech isn’t spread equally: Women are being left behind. The gender gap in mobile phone use is the subject of a new report by the G​SMA, an association of nearly 800 mobile operators worldwide. Its investigation found women were on average 14 percent less likely to own a phone than men in 11 low- and middle-income countries. To put that in other terms: 200 million fewer women than men in these countries don’t own phones. And when they do, they use them less than men. The gap varies a lot from country to country: In South Asia, women were 38 percent less likely to own a phone. In Kenya, however, there’s only a seven percent gap. The report authors put this down mainly to the widespread use of money tran​sfer system M-Pesa. The women and men surveyed for the GSMA report—from Colombia, Mexico, Niger, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, Egypt, Jordan, Turkey, India, China, and Indonesia—offered some of their own thoughts on how the tech could help women, from keeping in touch with friends and family to saving time, making them feel safer, and giving them more independence.

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