Mobile has the power to transform lives. It can help empower women, making them more connected and safer, and provide access to information and life-enhancing services such as; health information and guidance, financial services and employment opportunities, often for the first time. To help realize this significant opportunity, mobile operators are driving an effort to accelerate digital and financial inclusion for women across Africa, Asia and Latin America through the Connected Women Commitment Initiative. We are delighted to share that those mobile operators who have made a Connected Women Commitment have already reached over 12 million women so far. This means that Connected Women Commitment partners have acquired over 12 million new female mobile internet or mobile money customers since making their commitment, reaching millions of women with life-enhancing services.
The Connected Women Commitment initiative
GSMA Connected Women aims to reduce the gender gap in mobile internet and mobile money services and unlock significant commercial and socio-economic opportunities. Through the Connected Women Commitment initiative, mobile operators make formal commitments to reduce the gender gap in their mobile money or mobile internet customer base by 2020. As of August 2018, 36 operators have made 51 commitments to reduce the gender gap in their mobile money and/or mobile internet customer base across Africa, Asia and Latin America.
Activities undertaken by operators participating in the initiative include, for example, reaching women customers through micro loans and savings products; helping women’s agricultural groups see the benefits of mobile money for payments; improving the data top-up process to be safer and more appealing to women; developing healthcare apps; recruiting female agents and merchants; creating mobile financial products for traditional women’s savings groups; launching handset credit schemes; improving digital literacy among women through educational programmes and interactive content; and developing marketing use cases which appeal to women.
Why this is an important issue
In today’s increasingly connected world, women are being left behind. Despite these and other significant efforts, the gender gap in mobile phone ownership and usage in low- and middle-income countries prevails and means women are missing out. Our recent research estimates that women in low- and middle-income countries are, on average, 10% less likely to own a mobile phone than men, which translates into 184 million fewer women owning mobile phones. 
Even when women own a mobile phone, they report using phones less frequently and intensively than men, especially for transformative services such as mobile internet. We estimate that women are on average 26% less likely to use mobile internet than men and, according to the latest findings from the World Bank’s Global Findex database, women in these markets are on average 33% less likely to use mobile money. This gender gap is also wider in certain parts of the world. For instance, women in South Asia are 26% less likely to own a mobile than men and 70% less likely to use mobile internet.
Closing the gender gap requires concerted effort and can bring substantial benefits
The mobile gender gap is unlikely to close without targeted and coordinated efforts by a range of stakeholders. Operators are increasingly aware of the challenge to connect and empower women with mobile services and are working to address it and to unlock significant commercial opportunities. We estimate that if mobile operators across low- and middle-income countries could close the mobile gender gap today, they would gain an incremental $15 billion in revenue in the following 12 months. Relatedly, given the increasing economic and social importance of mobile and the internet, closing the gender gap can be a catalyst for economic growth. Furthermore, it contributes to a number of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, especially SDG 5, gender equality.
It is imperative that we meet this challenge head-on and ensure that women are not being left behind. As mobile and digital technologies proliferate, it is important that the mobile industry, policymakers and the development community continue to take action. As our CEO Mats Granryd states “there are far fewer women than men who own a mobile phone, that cannot be right, we see this as a business opportunity and as a human right to be part of the digital future.”
You can read more about each of the commitments and actions that operators are taking to address this challenge on the Connected Women Commitment page.
 Mobile’ or ‘mobile phone’ ownership refers to personally owning a SIM card, or a mobile phone which does not require a SIM, and using it at least once a month.