Indicator Name, Target and Goal

Indicator 5.b.1: Proportion of individuals who own a mobile telephone, by sex

Target 5.b: Enhance the use of enabling technology, in particular information and communications technology, to promote the empowerment of women

Goal 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls

Definition and Rationale


This indicator is defined as the percentage of individuals who own a mobile telephone.  


A mobile (cellular) telephone refers to a portable telephone subscribing to a public mobile telephone service using cellular technology, which provides access to the public switched telephone network (PSTN). This includes analogue and digital cellular systems and technologies such as IMT-2000. 

An individual owns a mobile cellular phone if he/she has a mobile cellular phone device with at least one active SIM card for personal use. Individuals who have only active SIM card(s) and not a mobile phone device are excluded. Mobile cellular phones supplied by employers that can be used for personal reasons (to make personal calls, access the Internet, etc.) are included. Individual who has a mobile phone for personal use that is not registered under his/her name is included. An active SIM card is a SIM card that has been used in the last three months. 

Rationale and Interpretation:

Mobile phone networks have spread rapidly over the last decade and the number of mobile-cellular subscriptions is quasi equal to the number of the people living on earth. However, not every person uses, or owns a mobile-cellular telephone. Mobile phone ownership, in particular, is important to track gender equality since the mobile phone is a personal device that, if owned and not just shared, provides women with a degree of independence and autonomy, including for professional purposes. Research shows the link between mobile phone ownership and empowerment, and productivity growth.

Data Sources and Collection Method

The primary source of this data would be the nationally representative household surveys that are conducted by the respective national statistical offices or relevant ministries of countries.  This indicator refers to ownership of mobile-cellular phone by individual household members. The suggested reference period is the last three months. Country practices vary, but ideally, reference periods should be aligned in order to obtain comparable data. 

Model question is: Do you have a mobile cellular telephone for personal use?  (Yes / No)

Optional question is: (If yes), how many lines or SIM cards do you have? Please consider only those that are active.

Method of Computation and Other Methodological Considerations

Computation Method:

Percentage of individuals who own a mobile phone (Ps), of the sex s, can be calculated as:


 is the number of individuals of the sex s who own a mobile phone; and

 is the number of total individuals of the sex s.  

Similarly, the percentage of all individuals who own a mobile phone (Pmobile) can be calculated as:


 is the number of individuals who own a mobile phone. 

Comments and limitations:

The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) is encouraging countries to collect this data through their national household surveys as this is a relatively new measure. It is expected to be added to the Partnership on Measuring ICT Development’s Core List of Indicators. 

Proxy, alternative and additional indicators: N/A

Data Disaggregation

This indicator is required to be disaggregated by sex. It can be disaggregated by geographic location (urban/rural), age group, education level, labour force status and occupation.


Official SDG Metadata URL  

Internationally agreed methodology and guideline URL
The definition and methodology of this indicator will be included in the future revision of the ITU Manual for Measuring ICT Access and Use by Households and Individuals 2014, available at  

Other references
UNCTAD (2014). Measuring ICT and Gender: An Assessment. Available at:  

Country examples

International Organization(s) for Global Monitoring

This document was prepared based on inputs from International Telecommunication Union (ITU).

For focal point information for this indicator, please visit

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