In 2018, Girl Effect undertook an extensive, first-of-its-kind research study – Girls & Mobile – to understand the needs, access, and usage of mobile technologies among adolescent girls. The study revealed that boys from low- or middle-income countries were 1.5X more likely to own a mobile phone than girls.

You can access the 2018 Report here.

Four years later, we have reimagined this study to capture experiences from the full spectrum of digital connectivity and to better understand the underlying causes and conditions girls face when accessing mobile devices.

Download the 2023 Girls & Mobile Report today!

Our methodology

We spoke to more than 10,000 young people and their parents from 9 countries and used a combination of research methods.

We leveraged Girl Effect’s network of girls and trained Technology Enabled Girl Ambassadors (TEGAs) to go into communities and gather new insights, stories, and experiences from youth to better understanding the barriers they face when coming online.

Our goal was not to simply report out the numbers, but to articulate the key attitudes, trends, and behaviors influencing youths’ mobile access and usage.

We could not have done this report without the funding support from the following partners:

Our results

The pandemic increased digital access for many youth.

of the adolescents we surveyed reported that they gained greater access to mobile phones and mobile internet during the lockdown periods.

of the adolescents we spoke to said that their parents are “most positive” about mobile phones coming out of the pandemic than they were before the pandemic.

Online education can be a gateway for girls.

Overall, boys and girls have similar attitudes and behaviors when using mobile phones for social media or entertainment.

Where we see their actions differ is around education.

use the internet to help with homework


use mobile devices to attend online classes

Fears around internet safety are shaping how girls behave online.

Both girls and boys experience online scams and harrassment, but mainly girls are being told they are not competent online. Our data shows girls are actually setting up more protections against scams and harrassment compared to their male peers.

more likely than boys to block someone

report unwanted behavior to administrators

have fallen victim to financial scams

Girls must be empowered, not minimized.

Girls are internalizing what they are being told (that they are “vulnerable”) and acting in a way that reinforces these gender norms and limits their own online usage.

more girls than boys reported that they feel self-conscious, fear being blackmailed, or worry about people insulting them in response to content shared online.

girls are less likely to post photos or comments online compared to boys.

We can’t forget the generational divide.

Parents are key gatekeepers for youth, but many are also just coming online for the first time.

Parents’ lack of digital literacy may be contributing to their hesitancy and mistrust of mobile devices.

wish they prefer that their parents are more positive about using mobile phones.

We need to include girls in creating the solution.

In order to address the gender digital divide, we need to identify and articulate the social norms inhibiting girls from coming online.

We cannot build solutions without understanding their experiences, motivations, and ideas.