Over 1.7 billion females in low-and middle-income countries do not own mobile phones and women on average are 14 percent less likely to own a mobile phone than men -- creating a gender gap of 200 million fewer women than men owning mobile phones, a report said here on Tuesday.
"In particular, women in South Asia are 38 percent less likely to own a phone than men, highlighting that the gender gap in mobile phone ownership is wider in certain parts of the world," the report 'Bridging the Gender Gap: Mobile Access and Usage in Low- and Middle-income Countries' released by GSM Association (GSMA) said.
"The ubiquity and affordability of mobile presents us with the unprecedented opportunity to improve and enhance social and economic development; however, as our study shows, women in particular tend to be left behind as owners of mobile phones and as consumers of mobile services," Anne Bouverot, director general of GSMA said.
"By addressing the gender gap in mobile phone ownership and use, we will deliver substantial benefits for women, the mobile industry and the broader economy," she added.
The report said the top five barriers to women owning and using mobile phones from a customer perspective are cost; network quality and coverage; security and harassment via mobile; operator or agent trust; and technical literacy and confidence issues.
Social norms and disparities between men and women in terms of education and income influence women's access to and use of mobile technology, and often contribute to women experiencing barriers to mobile phone ownership and use more acutely than men.
The report builds on the findings from the 'Women and Mobile: A Global Opportunity' report launched in 2010, which first highlighted the disparity in mobile phone ownership between men and women in low- and middle-income countries.
The study also finds that despite the progress that has been made, women continue to be left behind and challenges remain in ensuring that women are included in an increasingly connected and internet-enabled world.
Of the thousands of women interviewed in this report across 11 countries, including both mobile phone owners and non-owners at least 89 percent said mobile phones help or would help them stay in touch with friends and family.
The report found that achieving parity in ownership and use between men and women in low- and middle-income countries could bring socio-economic benefits, such as the availability of new education and employment opportunities,to an additional 200 million women; unlock an estimated $170 billion market opportunity for the mobile industry by 2020 and deliver a positive economic contribution to society.