Sunday, October 16, 2016

Why the Vast Majority of Women in India Will Never Own a Smartphone

By Eric Bellman and Aditi Malhotra

Updated Oct. 13, 2016 11:25 a.m ET

Balbair, a retired cook, does not welcome the smartphone into his home. The problem is not that he cannot afford one, but rather he fears the freedom that comes with them could lead his daughters astray. In India, 114 million more men than women have cell phones. According to the GSMA, one of the largest gender gaps  in the world is India's. Only  28% of females have cell phones compared to 43% of men. In China there is only a 1% gap between genders. Indian women are finding themselves at a technological disadvantage by this. Millions use smartphones to find jobs, bank, study, and buy train tickets. Offline options require freedom of movement, something that is not usually available for women in India. Therefore, women have to spend extra time and money when traveling due to standing in lines and filling out forms. Osama Manzar, founder of the nonprofit Digital Empowerment Foundation, which helps marginalized groups get access to technology believes that denying women the use of smartphones is a great lost of opportunity for women and the economy. Economist believe that involving more women into the India workforce would give the country a much needed development boost. The percentage of women in the workforce in 2014 was 27% this decreased from its 36% in 2004. GSMA estimates that if women owned as many phones as men, it could mean more than $30 billion a year in revenue for phone companies around the world, $3.5 billion of that for India. The Helping Get Women Online program by Alphabet Inc.'s Google has launched thousands of bicycle to villages across India offering women free access to the internet as well as training them on what they can do online. This program plans to reach more than 300,000 villages in India.  If this program succeeds then women will have the opportunity to expand their knowledge and facilitate many of their daily activities.


  1. Culturally, India does not put women on the same platform as men. With globalization, it is imperative that India develop an open-mindedness in giving women the same rights as men in order to stay competitive in the global marketplace. In this day and age the internet is a tool for running the household more efficiently. A Smartphone, and thus, the internet have more functionality than merely socializing or leading women ‘astray’. Bills can be paid online. A wide variety of consumer goods are available at competitive prices. Research information is endless. A Smartphone in itself aids the user in maximizing their time more efficiently by scheduling reminders and with the usage of GPS for searching places and locations. It’s an archaic mindset to not give those in developing nations a Smartphone regardless of their sex. Access to information can take away from nationalism but globalization supersedes this. It is the way the world is moving and by preventing a demographic from using tools that can enhance a country’s development is like shooting oneself in the foot.

  2. I agree with Arbie's comment. I believe this is not only a very good social initiative but also an important effort that might change the lives of underprivileged and subjugated communities around the world, while having a positive impact in their political and economic environments. Hopefully the initiative will succeed and India will open up to new ideologies. I consider it is imperative to keep ourselves updated with the technological advancements and tendencies.

  3. I agree also, having access to phones and the internet would only help women in India lead productive, happy lives. It's sad to see that they are being treated like children and having their freedom censored because of gender. I think that people know this, yet choose to make the rational about something else- like culture, religion, etc. because they want to preserve the power differential between men and women in this culture. Sex should not be an issue in being allowed to have a smartphone, or anything else in my opinion, and men and women should have equal rights.