Understanding the gender gap in the Global South

Alison Gillwald · Chenai Chair
Policy paper series 5: After Access-Assessing digital inequality in Africa
Policy paper: Understanding the gender gap in the Global South

The extent of mobile phone ownership and the gender gap broadly aligns with gross national income per capita. South Africa and the five Latin American countries surveyed (Argentina, Columbia, Peru, Paraguay and Guatemala), are the richest among the countries surveyed and show the lowest gender gap.

In contrast, the poorer countries from Africa show high gender disparity in mobile ownership, but particularly in Internet use. These, however, are lower than some of the higher income countries of Asia in which some of the greatest disparities in income are visible.


Of all the countries surveyed, Pakistan and Bangladesh have the highest mobile phone ownership gender gap. 

The section on Africa highlights some of the intersectional aspects of exclusion by looking at gender in relation to rural and urban location, education and income.

The section on Asia highlights the danger of thinking of “women” as a homogeneous group and attempting to address barriers to their connectivity in a uniform way. 

In the section on Latin America, the main factors affecting the gender gap are investigated through an estimation of the effect of observable characteristics like age occupation, and household characteristics. 

Effectively redressing the digital inequality will require transforming the structural inequality that perpetuate Economic and social exclusion and that is simply mirrored and sometimes even amplified in the digital world. As women tend to be concentrated among the most marginalized in society, initiatives that make Internet use more affordable and accessible are likely to contribute to reducing the gender gap in Internet access. 

While affordability remains the primary barrier to digital inclusion from a policy perspective, it is clear that demand side interventions are as critical to digital inclusion as supply side measures.  

Suggested citation

Gillwald, A., & Chair, C. (2019). Understanding the gender gap in the Global South (After Access Policy Paper, Series No. 5). Research ICT Africa. Retrieved from https://researchictafrica.net/publication/gender-gap-global-south/