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What Do We Know About Women’s Mobile Phone Access & Use? A review of evidence

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While phone access and ownership has been rising rapidly in India in recent years, women lag behind on access, usage and ownership of mobile phones across the world but especially in South Asia, including India. This paper provides an analytical review of extant literature on how low-income women in India and in other countries in the Global South access and use mobile phones, including for financial activity; what the barriers to access and usage are; and what dimensions lead to exclusion. We find that there is limited published research on women’s access and use of mobile phones in India, and significant research gaps. Overall, the review shows that women have less access to phones, generally have access to a shared phone or a phone with less features. Women use fewer features on the phone as compared to men. Women’s use of mobile phones is more constrained in the geographic location they may use the phone, for how long and for what purpose. Women also suffer from barriers to using mobile phones including socio-cultural notions of women not needing a phone, or women potentially compromising family honour, due to which women both self-censor and are frequently monitored in their phone usage. Significant research gaps remain with respect to how women in India access and use phones, and what barriers affect access and use.

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