In developing countries, the number of unique subscribers using mobile internet has grown from 728 million in 2010 to 1.8 billion in 2014. This growth has profound implications for women’s economic, social, and political empowerment – mobile internet can help women access resources like entrepreneurship opportunities, affordable healthcare, and peer learning platforms. However, women continue to lag behind men in both mobile phone ownership and internet access in developing countries.
Dalberg partnered with GSMA’s Connected Women and Digital Inclusion teams to analyze the challenges women face when using the mobile internet. In the report “Accelerating Digital Literacy: Empowering Women to Use the Mobile Internet,” findings from ethnographic research conducted in Kenya, India, and Indonesia demonstrate how women learn digital literacy skills, the limited opportunities women have to explore and increase their knowledge, and practical recommendations for stakeholders to enable women’s learning. The slideshow below shares the experience of Sophie, a persona that is representative of the desires and challenges women face in areas where mobile internet access and skills are limited.
Beyond training, there are many opportunities to increase value and use of the internet for women, from improvements to user interface design to providing tailored search mechanisms in key areas like health and employment pre-populated with local content sources. This will require cooperation across stakeholders: mobile network operators, donors and NGOs, governments, developers, application and service providers, and research organizations. Whatever approach we take, it is important to build on existing mobile use patterns – which are dominated by communication and messaging platforms – and not assume that mobile internet literacy in the future will be equated with URLs, web browsers, search engines, and app stores.