For low- and middle-income countries, the report found that the gender gap in mobile ownership has remained mostly unchanged since 2017, at 7% down from 9%, while that in mobile internet use has reduced to 15% from 25%. The main barriers to mobile internet use for both men and women are the expense of internet-enabled handsets, and poor literacy and digital skills.

The disproportionate negative effects of the pandemic on women

The report noted a significant increase in the use of mobile internet for video calls, listening to music, and watching videos in the last year. But women’s ability to go online in some countries has suffered as the pandemic has forced many to take on even more household responsibilities, such as educating their children from home, while experiencing job and income losses.

It’s unclear “which story will win out” in the future—the real need to go online or the negative impacts of the pandemic, Claire Sibthorpe, head of connected women and connected society at GSMA, tells Quartz.

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