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Published on June 22nd, 2007 | by Babar Bhatti


The Gender Divide In Pakistan Telecom


According to a recent study by Sir Lanka based research organization LIRNEasia, Pakistan has done well in terms of mobile access at the bottom of the pyramid compared to India and Sri Lanka; however a large gender divide in terms of both access and use exists. I think such basic market research is the key to understand the trends and I commend LIRNEasia on their work in social sector. The following is taken from the report.

A recent five-country survey of telecom use at the “Bottom of the Pyramid”, or BOP, has shown that mobile ownership at the BOP in Pakistan was found to be as high as 23%. Despite having the lowest per capita GDP among the countries studied, Pakistan beat both its South Asian counterparts Sri Lanka and India on this count, with mobile ownership at the BOP in these countries at 22 and 9 percent, respectively. Almost 66% of these mobile connections had been taken up in the preceding year (i.e., since mid-2005).

However the most interesting part of the study for me is where it shows a significant gender divide exists in the telecom area.

Men appear to have more access to mobiles and public phones (including telecommunication centers, public pay phone booths, etc.) than females. Individually owned mobiles are used as the primary phone (most frequently used) by 30% of males, but only 11% of females (See Figure)

Public phones are used as the primary phone by 45% of males, but just 24% of females. Among females, the preferred primary phone (48%) was either a neighbor or friend’s phone or another household member’s mobile phone (compared to 13% of males). A similar, but less pronounced pattern was seen in India, but not in any of the other countries studied.

In addition, phone ownership was lower among females (29%) as compared with males (43%); such differences were not seen in the other four countries.

Significant gender differences were also seen in the use of telephones at the BOP, in terms of number of calls made. Pakistan was the only country in the study where men made and received significantly more calls than women at the BOP and used more minutes per month; on average, men made 18 calls per month and received 25, while women made 10 and received 15 calls. These differences contrast with much of the existing research, based on small-sample studies in affluent developed countries; these studies generally conclude that women use telephones more than men.

The study, ‘Teleuse at the Bottom of the Pyramid’ (T@BOP) was conducted in Pakistan, India, Philippines, Sri Lanka & Thailand among a survey sample of 8,689. Data on usage was collected through the use of a diary, placed with 50% of the sample for a period of two weeks – an innovative technique which has not been used in a study of this kind before.

The study looks at the use of telephones among the lower socio-economic strata, or BOP within each country; it looks at what kinds of phones people use, what benefits they obtain from them. It also takes a look at the perspectives of the non-owning user, and issues relating to getting and staying connected.

The fieldwork was conducted by AC Nielsen affiliates in the respective countries during July and August of 2006; the study was funded by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) of Canada.

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7 Responses to The Gender Divide In Pakistan Telecom

  1. zakir zaib says:

    I want more information about telecommunication and networking.

  2. umair says:

    i want information about history of telecommunication in pakistan for my report of MBA

  3. Babar Bhatti says:


    Interesting comments as usual. The top google query list from Pakistan is both informative and entertaining. Of course these things are wide open to interpretation. One can argue that women in pakistan (those who use internet) tend to do more research online for their beauty needs, but probably women are still a minority overall when it comes to internet users in Pakistan. But this is beyond the scope of the current study which was on phone usage.

  4. It was discovered in this study (T@BOP) that sms usage is not influenced by the actual cost of an sms but influenced by the relative cost of a call to an sms (i.e. call charge per minute/charge per sms)

    A very strong positive relationship was observed between the sms usage and the relative cost of a call to an sms. i.e. higher the relative cost of a call, higher the sms usage. The regression analysis indicated an R-square figure of 99.9% for the above relationship, which implies 99.9% of variability of SMS use is explained by (or due to) the relative cost of a call.

    But the relationship between the sms usage and the actual cost of an sms was found to be very weak and the R-Square figure is close to 0%.

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  6. Tee Emm says:

    Some breaking news maybe:

    If Google’s Zeitgeist is considered an indicator, there are more female users of Internet in Pakistan than their male counterparts.

    In April 2007, the top query for Pakistan on Google was ‘beauty tips’, a topic that certainly cannot be a typical contemporary Pakistani young lad. It has to be a girl/women to quest for this.

    For May 2007, see it for yourself at: This month, the second most searched topic is ‘facial’, again something strongly to do with the fairer sex.

    Nothing beats real research and this is not one but trends have their importance too.


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