•The report by GSMA also shows Kenya was the only country, of the surveyed eight , where the gender gap in mobile internet use has widened.
•Women’s mobile internet use remained flat over this period while use increased for men.
Kenyans sold handsets to cope with financial stress in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, a survey indicates, as households battled job losses and reduced income.
To respond to emergencies and meet basic needs, electronic gadgets among them handsets was the quickest to dispose, with Kenya Private Sector Alliance (Kepsa) data showing at least 5.9 million jobs were directly or indirectly affected as of June last year.
This was four months after the first Covid case was reported in the country, on March 12.
The Mobile Gender Gap Report 2021 released yesterday shows overall mobile ownership declined slightly for women in 2020, as that of men remained higher at 92 per cent compared to 86 per cent for the female mobile ownership population.
"Respondents in our qualitative research highlighted that the economic impact of the pandemic has been felt acutely in Kenya, especially by women," reads the report.
The GSMA report also shows Kenya was the only country, of the surveyed eight , where the gender gap in mobile internet use widened from 34 per cent in 2019 to 42 per cent in 2020.
Women’s mobile internet use remained flat over this period while use increased for men.
On the share of population in Kenya by type of handset owned, 2019–2020, most women owned basic phones (34 per cent) followed by a 32 per cent who owned smart phones. About 11 per cent of female mobile phone owners operate with feature phones.
In the male population of handset owners, majority (47 per cent) had smart phones, 25 per cent (basic phones) while 14 per cent operated with feature phones.
Communication Authority of Kenya data shows mobile telephony subscription penetration recorded a marginal growth (0.14 per cent) in financial year 2019/20, compared to 106.8 per cent the previous year.
The country had 57 million mobile users as of last year, according to CA data, with internet subscription at 41.4 million.
The new report shows more women access the internet via mobile phone (79 per cent) compared to 63 per cent of male internet users.
“This reliance by women on mobile demonstrates the disproportionate benefit of increasing their access,” says the report .
Mats Granryd, Director General, of the GSMA said:“If women are to become equal citizens in a more digital, post-Covid world, closing the mobile gender gap has never been more critical.”
According to Granryd, policymakers, the private sector and the international community should ensure concerted action and collaboration to enable women and their families to reap the full benefits of connectivity.
The survey by GSMA was conducted in Algeria, Mozambique, Nigeria, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Guatemala and Kenya.
GSMA represents the interests of mobile operators worldwide, uniting more than 750 operators with almost 400 companies in the broader mobile ecosystem, including handset and device makers, software companies, equipment providers and internet companies, as well as organisations in adjacent industry sectors.
In the survey, Kenyan men led their peers in the eight countries in mobile phone ownership with an average of 86 per cent.
Mobile users who are aware of mobile internet but do not use it reported that the top barrier preventing them from doing so is a lack of literacy and digital skills.
Affordability, primarily of smartphones, is the second most important barrier but the greatest barrier in Kenya and Nigeria, the survey indicates.
Meanwhile, Kenya leads in the proportion of mobile money account owners that reported purchasing products via mobile money for the first time because of Covid-19, an economy where Safaricom's Mpesa platform remain a leading transaction platform.