Mobile broadband is growing rapidly in developing nations according to a report by the International Telecommucation Union-ITU. This could improve the lives and earning potential of poor people.
According to the report, “The number of active mobile- broadband subscriptions per 100 inhabitants continues to grow strongly, with an 18.4 per cent year-on-year growth.
Mobile-cellular subscriptions have also continued to grow, while fixed-telephone subscriptions continue to decline steadily.”
The correlation between level of development and uptake of mobile subscriptions is much weaker-the report highlighted- reflecting the better affordability and availability of mobile compared with fixed network connections.
Based on the countries for which data is available, the ITU report stated that, it appears that mobile phone ownership is correlated with income levels. Surprisingly, the lowest mobile phone ownership rates are found in Africa and South Asia.
A 2019 GSMA report drew attention on the same subject. “Affordability, literacy and digital skills, a perceived lack of relevance, and safety and security concerns are the most important barriers to mobile ownership and mobile internet use for women.
Affordability, particularly of handsets, is the top barrier to mobile ownership, while literacy and digital skills are the main factors limiting mobile internet use among those who are aware of it.”
A Widening Gender Gap
Closing the gender gaps in mobile ownership and usage represents for mobile operators an estimated additional $140 billion in revenue to the mobile industry over the next five years.
“In 24 of the 85 countries for which data are available, a higher proportion of women than men own a mobile phone, although the gap is usually quite small.
However, for 23 of the 58 countries where more men than women own a mobile phone, the gender gap is over 10 per cent, and in 14 of those countries over 20 per cent” stated the ITU report.
The report also noted a significant trend that most countries with a large gender gap in mobile phone ownership have a large gender gap among Internet users.
The GSMA report elaborates on this developing trend. “Women in low- and middle-income countries are 10 per cent less likely than men to own a mobile, which translates into 197 million fewer women than men owning a mobile phone. As mobile subscriber growth slows, the gender gap in mobile ownership is not closing.”
The usage gap-the GSMA stated- is also reflected in mobile spending. “Across low- and middle-income countries, female mobile owners spend on average 17 per cent less than men on mobile services.
This spending gap is evident even in countries where there is not a gender gap in mobile ownership or mobile internet use. This is an opportunity for operators in all markets to increase ARPU7 by equalising usage.”