In this 2016 Emirate News article, Kailash Satyarthi is quoted as saying:

Today, women are rising, but this is happening only where they have access to education. Young girls in the MENA region are demanding their rights. They are demanding access to quality education and freedom. Forty-eight per cent of women in the Arab world do not own a mobile phone and the gender gap in internet usage across the region is 34 per cent. Let us not leave them behind. "

Techcrunch made a similar claim in February 2016, attributing it to the World Bank.

Is it true that 48% of women in the Arab world do not own a mobile phone?

  • 7
    How many Arab men own one?
    – Golden Cuy
    Mar 6, 2017 at 11:54
  • Dont find any reference to men for that data-arabianindustry.com/comms/features/2015/mar/8/…. Mar 6, 2017 at 12:16
  • 2
    @Andrew Grimm: And if you live in a poor country (and are poor yourself), why would you pay for more than one phone per family? If that single phone is most often listed in the name of the (usually male) head of household, it would skew the numbers pretty significantly. For comparison, consider US land line phones in 1967.
    – jamesqf
    Mar 6, 2017 at 19:07
  • 1
    @jamesqf Landline phones were still very common in the US up until the last decade or two, when cell phones became cost-effective and smartphones made their mark. Most people I know only had one line (maybe two, often as a dedicated line for dialup) even then.
    – JAB
    Mar 6, 2017 at 21:54
  • @JAB: Yes, and I'm one of those people who only got a cell phone when they became cheaper than my land line. And am perfectly happy with my $25 dumb phone :-)
    – jamesqf
    Mar 7, 2017 at 6:26

1 Answer 1


The claim is largely supported by a 2015 report by GSMA (an international consortium of mobile operators). The report does not appear to be peer-reviewed.

The report is based on interviews, focus groups, market research and usage data from 11-35 countries.

In Figure 4.2, it shows 48% of women are unconnected in low and middle-income countries in the Middle East & North Africa. That is not the exactly the same as "the Arab world", but presumably is the source of the claim.

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  • Intersting that they chose "the arab world" when other regions, especially Pakistan and India have a far higher unconnected ratio. Even China and other south-east asian nations have a higher percentage of unconnected females according to this graph.
    – Dulkan
    Mar 6, 2017 at 13:41
  • 2
    @Dulkan: Presumably because, at the time, he was in Sharjah, talking to an audience full of people from the Arab world.
    – Oddthinking
    Mar 6, 2017 at 14:28

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