Women around the world lack access to cell phones, and it’s at least a $700B problem

According to new research, the lack of female connectivity on cell phones and the mobile web will cost global GDP more than $700B over the next 5 years.


March 5, 2019

Cell phone operators are losing more than $140B in annual revenue in global communities where few women own cell phones. 

According to cell phone industry research reported by Axios, developing countries have been the driving force behind the global boom in cell-phone ownership — but phone ownership has been anything but equal between genders.

Global growth, but with a gender gap 

Across the globe, the number of cell phone and mobile internet users has been on the rise for years: Since 2014, cell companies have added more than 700m new cell phone junkies to the global network in developing countries. 

But women lag far behind men when it comes to cell phone adoption (a gender gap with a breakdown similar to global literacy rates and pay rates).

Compared to men in developing countries, 197m fewer women own cell phones (a 10% gap) and 313m fewer women use the mobile internet (a 23% gap)  — costing cell companies $140B in potential annual revenue. 

A problem that rings true far beyond cell phones

The financial toll of the cell phone gap will only grow over time: The global economy could lose $700B in GDP over the next 5 years if the gender cell phone gap doesn’t close.

But it’s even more problematic for a wide variety of social reasons: Lack of phone access also limits female access to education, healthcare, and jobs.

If cell phones companies help get more women connected, that’s a good thing — but should it take an eye-popping profit margin for global businesses to throw women a freakin’ phone?

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