The GSMA spearheaded a campaign to reignite the process of encouraging more women in low- and middle-income countries to access the internet, noting initial progress showed signs of waning, jeopardising long-term targets.

In its sixth annual Mobile Gender Gap Report, the GSMA argued more than 100 million women must adopt mobile internet each year between now and 2030 to close the distance to male users, with parity requiring 800 million women to get online.

The GSMA’s research centres on low- and middle-income nations in Asia-Pacific, Africa and Latin America.

It noted 61 per cent of women in the target nations used mobile internet services at end-2022, but highlighted a slowdown in adoption, with 60 million new users compared with 75 million in 2021.

The research highlighted 900 million women in the countries remained unconnected by end-2022, the majority located in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.

Awareness and use of mobile internet services by women are almost on-par with men once they are equipped with a smartphone, but the GSMA noted 440 million females do not own any kind of mobile phone.

The GSMA highlighted affordability, particularly of handsets, remained a barrier to mobile internet adoption, along with digital literacy and skills, and safety and security concerns.

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Mats Granryd, director general of the GSMA, explained mobile phones “are the primary and often only source of internet access” in low- and middle-income countries.

He issued a rallying call to “all stakeholders in the digital community” to take moves to “enable more women to access and use mobile internet, and ultimately ensure women are not being left behind in an increasingly digital world”.

The industry group highlighted progress as part of the GSMA Connected Women Commitment, an initiative launched in 2016 which garnered moves by more than 40 mobile operators in the low- and middle-income countries that collectively reached more than 65 million additional female users.

Still, the GSMA argued to “fully address the issue” requires operators, internet companies, governments, regulators and developers to increase their focus and take “targeted action”.

The Mobile Gender Gap Report is funded by the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office; and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency through the GSMA Mobile for Development Foundation.