The troubling gap between girls and boys who own cellphones around the world revealed

A teen on her phone
A teen on her phone

We live in an incredibly digital world where most of have access to cellphones and the internet.

The pros are undeniable especially when it comes to learning opportunities, but progress towards every person owning a smart or feature phone is terribly slow, for young women in low income countries especially.

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There already is a mobile technology gap, meaning many women and girls are being left behind when it comes to accessing information.

According to a study that surveyed 3 000 girls and boys from 25 different countries published by Girl Effect and Vodafone foundation, boys are "1.5 times more likely to own a cellphone than girls".

The study also reveals that "globally 184 million fewer women own a mobile phone than men".

It goes on to say that "this gap is even wider with regard to mobile internet, with women 26% less likely to use it than men in these countries".

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The study focuses particularly on girls between the ages of 10 and 24 years old and was aimed at "bringing attention to the knowledge, attitudes and behaviours of girls as a particular subset of women, and to include their voices in the global conversation about mobile access and use".

The study was conducted via online surveys, and interviews and includes results from the U.S, Rwanda, Nigeria, Malawi, India and The Phillipines among others.

In the survey it was revealed that boys are more likely to use their cellphones for a much wider variety of activities than girls, indicating that girls had less understanding of how to use a mobile phone.

"Truly I don't know [what] to make of smartphone, I don't know how to check the content inside the phone so as to know the one which is preferable to me," said a 17 year old Nigerian girl.

Many young women were also not allowed to own mobile phones because of their gender.

They also found that if a girl needed to use a phone for whatever reason, she would have to borrow one from someone else and that many would turn to their mothers and not their fathers if they needed access to a cellphone.

"It gives me confidence even though I do not have a phone, I borrow from my mum and use it to call my relatives and talk to them, if they have something I want, I then go to collect it", a 19 year old girl from Nigeria said.

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The study also said that some girls would go as far as to hide the fact that they owned a cellphone, to avoid getting into trouble.

"She will hide and answer her call or go to her friend’s house or she will give her callers a specific time they will be calling her", says an 18 year old from Rwanda.

Another factor that influenced the number of girls with access to cellphones was the cost.

A lot of the girls who were spoken to had said that their families were unable to provide them with a cellphone, and for boys it was more simple because they would do "piece-work" and would then be able to afford to buy one.

The girls also listed a number of ways having a cellphone could be useful for them.

''After buying a mobile phone I have been able to do a lot of good stuff. I do online exams, fill in application forms, send emails. If I have to travel I find out about the train times. In case I get stuck anywhere, then I contact my family members to tell them that I am stuck at that place'' a 18 year old girl from India says.

However, others saw it negatively. 

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"Smart phones have bad videos and other obscene material... that pollutes their mind[s]. And they talk with boys on over Whatsapp, which they hide from their family", a 19 year old girl from India said.

The authors of the report listed a number of ways the mobile gender gap could be decreased.

One of which was that tech literacy and digital safety be included in education.

They also said that NGO's, governments, Mobile Network Operators and private sectors should engage and work towards expanding girl's mobile worlds.

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