The latest Mobile Gender Gap Report has highlighted that approximately half of female and male mobile users in Pakistan, who are aware of mobile internet, consider handset affordability as the primary obstacle to mobile internet adoption. This finding underscores the significant impact of affordability on mobile usage, particularly for women. The report also identifies literacy and digital skills, as well as a lack of perceived relevance, as other major hurdles to mobile adoption globally.
In low and middle-income countries (LMICs), around 900 million women still do not use mobile internet, and 440 million do not own a mobile phone, with a majority residing in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.
The report reveals that South Asia continues to have the widest gender gap in mobile ownership, with Pakistan recording the widest gap among the surveyed countries at 35 percent. However, both South Asia and Pakistan have made significant progress in narrowing the gender gaps in mobile ownership over the years. In 2018, South Asia’s gender gap in mobile ownership stood at 28 percent, while Pakistan’s gap was at a staggering 45 percent.
Similarly, in mobile internet usage, South Asia has reduced the gender gap to 41 percent, compared to 57 percent in 2018. Pakistan has made notable strides as well, bringing down the gap to 38 percent, compared to 63 percent in 2018.
The affordability of handsets in Pakistan has become increasingly challenging in recent years, primarily due to a sharp rise in the dollar exchange rate, import bans, and excessive taxes. These factors have contributed to the worsening affordability situation.
One potential solution could be the introduction of phone installment plans. However, in Pakistan’s predominantly prepaid market, implementing such plans has posed challenges for lenders and digital operators alike.
Efforts are needed to address the affordability barrier and promote greater access to mobile internet in Pakistan, especially for women. Initiatives focusing on reducing handset costs, providing digital literacy and skills training, and highlighting the relevance of mobile internet usage can play a crucial role in bridging the gender gap and fostering digital inclusion.
As Pakistan moves forward, it is essential to prioritize affordability, digital empowerment, and access to mobile connectivity for all, ensuring that mobile internet becomes more accessible and inclusive for everyone, regardless of gender.