South Asia is considered as a ‘gender-gap’ hotspot when it comes to cellular phone ownership. There are 300 million fewer female subscribers in low and middle income countries – Pakistan also falls under that category. Surprisingly, a woman is less 23% likely to own a cellular phone than a man is she is living in Africa, 24% if she is Middle East and 37% if she is living in South Asia.
The disparity in ownership of cellular phones between males and females transcends from the national to the city level. The enthusiastic residents of Lahore (Pakistan) also witness this gender-gap. Lahore is largely an urbanized country with high literacy rates compared with the rest of the cities in Pakistan. One might draw the conclusion Lahore will exhibit a lesser gap between male and female consumers or it will display a gender-balance in this regard. However, the statistics show that as per the international gender-gap, Lahori women are also well-behind. Teenagers are in the front row while grabbing cellular phones irrespective of gender. Most of the middle-aged women who stay at homes seldom use cellular phones. Moreover, the conservative cultural trends also hinder the ownership of cellular phones by women.
Like many other problems, bridging the mobile gender gap at one of the most urbanized cities of Pakistan requires a change in mind set. People should know the position of a mobile phone as a life-enhancing and income generating tool. The positive uses of cellular phones should be taught to both the genders; so parents can keep a check on their children for the reasons of protection and privacy. Excluding innovation from your life is not a solution to stop the negative use of cellular phones in the society. Increased level of awareness, best possible utilization of cellular phones by promoting them as effective development tools that create education, health, employment, banking and business opportunities can make a difference in the society.
To support this argument it is necessary to mention that if telecommunications providers close the gender-gap in mobile phone penetration, worldwide telecommunications revenue would increase by US $ 13 billion. Pakistan has to give its due share by empowering women through cellular phones!
Originally published in Phone World Magazine February 2012
This post is also available at the website of Phone World Magazine