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May 20, 2010

Who’s using mobile data?

moleculeLONDON, England – It’s pretty common knowledge that mobile data services are growing rapidly – thanks to cheaper tariffs, mobile devices that are built with internet access in mind and the continuing optimisation of web sites and services to work well on mobile clients. What we know less about is who and how people use mobile data services. New research from mobile entertainment portal myxer might surprise you.

It’s women. Women download twice as much mobile content as men, according to this study. Looking at the site’s statistics from April, women downloaded 4.5million items – or 67 per cent of the total – compared to just 2.2million downloads from men. There are not only many more women using the site, but also the average individual female user downloaded 17 per cent more content than the average male.


If you did find that surprising, then the picture when it comes to most of the big social networking sites on the Web may come as something of a shock. (click for a bigger image).


It’s easy to come to some slightly dubious conclusions from this regarding the extent to which women might be bigger and better communicators than men. I’d like to sidestep that particular can of worms and instead shoe-horn in something important about women and mobile phones from an international perspective. A bunch of other research has shown that ownership of a mobile phone by women has consistently been linked to improved employment opportunities and gender equality. One study conducted in South Africa noted:

Employment increases by 15 percentage points when a locality receives complete network coverage… most of this effect is due to increased employment by women, in particular those who are not burdened with large child care responsibilities at their homes.

…women experienced large gains in employment…. Household income increases in a pro-poor way when cellular infrastructure is provided and the estimated decreases in extreme poverty are substantial.

I think we’d all agree that the Internet is a massively enabling force and as poorer countries across the world start gaining access to vital services through their mobiles, it will undoubtedly lead to increased empowerment and equality of opportunity for women.

Credits: social network analysis and visualisation by David McCandless; molecule image by Gisela Giardino