posnerodede1_ARISMESSINISAFPGettyImages_girlintentoncellphone Aris Messinis/AFP/Getty Images

Technology on the Frontline for Girls

Ensuring equitable mobile access is a powerful, easily scalable way to enable women and girls to make informed decisions about their lives. But connecting them to the Internet is only the first step; we must also consider what they find when they get there.

NAIROBI – Today, 1.4 billion girls and women live in countries that are failing on gender equality, in areas ranging from education and decent work to health and violence. Yet one of the most effective ways to empower girls and women – safe and reliable access to mobile phones and the Internet – is in danger of being ignored.

Today, the GSMA – the global trade body for mobile operators – estimates that more than five billion people have mobile devices, over half of which are smartphones. But the rapid diffusion of mobile technology has not been equal. Though the number of women from low- and middle-income countries who own mobile phones has risen by some 250 million in just the last five years, there are still 184 million fewer women than men with mobile phones, and women are 26% less likely than men to use mobile Internet.

Similarly, though younger people own mobile phones at a higher rate than their older counterparts, gender imbalances persist. According to a 2018 study by Girl Effect (of which I am CEO), boys are 1.5 times more likely to own a phone than girls. Even among those who do own phones, boys are more likely to have smartphones than girls.