NEWS RELEASE: Telephone use on a shoestring in Sri Lanka and India – Men’s use of telephones no different from women’s

Posted on January 24, 2006  /  4 Comments

Colombo, Sri Lanka, 19 December 2005: Men and women in Sri Lanka and India engage in similar levels of telephone use in low-income settings, according to a recent study carried out by LIRNEasia.

A study conducted by LIRNEasia, an Asian research organization based in Colombo, explores the use of telecom services amongst people whose incomes are less than approximately USD 100 per month in Sri Lanka and India. The study provides evidence that there are few significant differences between men and women in the use of fixed, mobile or public phones at these income levels. These results challenge the findings of several prior and well-established studies……..

English Press Release: Telephone use on a shoestring in Sri Lanka and India – Men’s use of telephones no different from women’s

More information about the study: Telecom use on a shoestring [2005]


  1. Kathleen Flynn-Dapaah

    Interesting findings. I wonder if the findings relate to the fact that social security is greatly linked to relationship maintenance (investments in social capital), especially under circumstances of economic insecurity and low income levels. The gender changes may only become more evident as household incomes rise since many more women than men would continue to rely on relationships for economic security (i.e. through husbands, fathers and other family members). In many cases women from higher income families continue to rely on relationships to maintain economic security rather than being economically independent. Once the additional studies have been conducted it might be interesting to probe the results more deeply using gender and social analysis to explore this hypothesis concerning the role of telephones in building and maintaining social capital and the social and gender implications in different socio-economic groups.

  2. Thank you for your comment and suggestion; you have raised some interesting points.

    It would be very interesting to investigate whether men’s and women’s behavior does diverge as incomes and socio-economic statuses rise. Another reason why this might occur relates to the greater use of phones for business activities amongst higher income groups, given that business activity might be concentrated amongst the village affluent. In the South Asian context, where men are more involved in business activities (in contrast to certain parts of Africa) as incomes increase, and phones are used increasingly for business purposes for example, the divergence might appear. These are issues that we intend to investigate in the 2006-2007 Telecom Use on a Shoestring research, which will be replicated in at least 4 countries.

    All this being said, it is important to note that it is difficult to ascertain the exact ‘purpose’ of a call, and categorize it as either ‘instrumental’ or ‘relationship maintenance;’ a call may contain elements of both instrumental and relationship maintenance purposes. It is very likely that at this level of society, there is a significant barter economy, where a call to one’s cousin, who also loans you money, might contain a mix of relationship maintenance and instrumental content.


  3. There are two issues here.

    1. Do women take more phone calls than men?
    2. Is the talking time of women more than that of men?

    In many cases the general belief is (might not be correct) normally women talks more on phone rather than they take more number of calls. This can be for the reasons Kathleen so nicely elaborates.

    However, at low income levels both men and women obviously have to limit their talking time because of economic reasons. They cannot go on talking for hours. Specially, if they are using a phone of another person they have to be concerned both about the talking time as well as the number of calls they take.

    I do not think the results of this survey per se are adequate to derive the solid conclusion that men’s use of telephones no different from women’s. The same survey should also be carried among higher income groups to arrive at a better results.

    Anyway, I think this issue is largely important for sociologists rather than policy researchers and policy makers. Let us assume we discovered that the phone usage of men and women are not different. What policy changes we can advocate based on those findings?

    Does any one know mobile packages specially designed for women? (Like cars and bicycles for women?)

  4. This report present very interesting findings, indeed! Is there a way (and is there any value-added) in doing secondary and tertiary levels of analysis of the survey results? In a country like the Philippines where mobile phones are becoming more popular and cheaper (voice calls as opposed to SMS, which led to the mobile phone boom), it may be interesting to find out how the call patterns (frequency, nature, etc.) of women and men would vary over time or over a period of very significant changes in policy and costing schemes. there is an on-going battle amongst the cellular providers here for the cheapest and smartest budget promos. Is there any difference between women with families and women without. There is a trend here wherein Filipino kids are given cellphones by their parents as natural as giving them school allowance. Just my two-cents.