- Published: 30 August 2021
They diversified the use of internet services amid pandemic, survey finds
Women in Bangladesh have increased and diversified their use of mobile internet services ever since the Covid-19 outbreak began as social distancing restrictions in particular have led to a rise in video calls, social media use and viewing of online videos, according to a survey.
The GSMA Mobile Gender Gap Report 2021 found that about 62 per cent of female mobile internet users had increased their mobile internet use during the pandemic.
For example, the proportion of female mobile owners in Bangladesh watching free videos on a weekly basis rose by 9 percentage points to 20 per cent in 2020.
A small-scale survey was conducted between October 4, 2020 and January 8, 2021 in eight low and middle-income countries.
Although mobile internet benefits Bangladeshi women, this potentially life-enhancing service is still out of reach for most.
Despite the rise in mobile internet usage among existing users, it did not result in a large-scale adoption by new users in Bangladesh.
Data from the report indicates that mobile internet penetration among women in Bangladesh grew by only 3 percentage points last year, from 16 per cent to 19 per cent, as had been in previous years.
By comparison, 33 per cent of men in Bangladesh use mobile internet, resulting in a substantial gender gap.
The survey found that about 47 per cent of women in Bangladesh are aware of mobile internet but are not using it.
The mobile ownership gender gap varies by age cohort, but is highest for those over the age of 55 in most surveyed countries.
In Bangladesh, the gender gap in mobile ownership is 17 per cent among 18 to 24-year-olds, but it is more than double that for those over 55 years, at 46 per cent.
However, according to the survey, the pandemic has not been able to increase women smartphone ownership as only 21 per cent adult women owned a smartphone in 2019, which remained unchanged in 2020.
On the other hand, 39 per cent of adult men owned a smartphone in 2020, up from 36 per cent in 2019.
Mobile internet awareness has gained huge momentum among women over the past couple of years. It was about 66 per cent in 2020, up from 34 per cent in 2017. For male users, it was 75 per cent in 2020, up from 50 per cent in 2017.
In 2020, only 14 per cent of women had mobile money accounts while 40 per cent men had such accounts.
However, it is substantially higher than that in India and Pakistan as only 4 and 5 per cent of adult women in the countries respectively had such accounts.
"As people now adopted the work-from-home and remote learning processes, this increased data use significantly in the county," Mustafa Jabbar, posts, telecommunications and information technology minister, told The Daily Star.
"And many women now rely on the internet to conduct their business. Besides, expansion of 4G network in the remote areas also played an important role to bring the rural women into internet," he said.
Asked about the zero growth in smartphone ownership, he blamed their "exorbitant" prices and a lack of skill.
"Women in remote areas have little skill on using a smartphone. So we need to work on it," said Jabbar.
He said since 2017, when the government allowed mobile phone assembling and manufacturing plants to be established in Bangladesh, the price of smartphones has been on a downward trend.
"However, the price of smartphones should be much lower. I think within two years the price of smartphones will decrease more," said the minister.
Meanwhile, the number of broadband internet connections surpassed one crore in June for the first time.
According to the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC), the number of broadband subscribers shot up around 18 per cent year-on-year in June.
Broadband connections took a staggering jump of 76 per cent since the pre-pandemic times of February last year, when there were 57 lakh such customers. In other words, the pandemic added over 43 lakh subscribers.
There was another milestone in the BTRC's data, with the total number of internet subscribers reaching 12.09 crore at the end of June, up from 11.73 crore a month earlier.
The total number of mobile phone subscribers reached 17.64 crore in June, up from 17.52 crore in May.
Autor(en)/Author(s): Mahmudul Hasan
Quelle/Source: The Daily Star, 23.08.2021