Khatun F, Heywood AE, Hanifi SM, Rahman MS, Ray PK, Liaw ST and Bhuiya A (2017) Gender differentials in readiness and use of mHealth services in a rural area of Bangladesh, BMC health services research, 17:573, DOI: 10.1186/s12913-017-2523-6
Background: Traditional gender roles result in women lagging behind men in the use of modern technologies, especially in developing countries. Although there is rapid uptake of mobile phone use in Bangladesh, investigation of gender differences in the ownership, access and use of mobile phones in general and mHealth in particular has been limited. This paper presents gender differentials in the ownership of mobile phones and knowledge of available mHealth services in a rural area of Bangladesh.
Methods: We interviewed 4915 randomly selected respondents aged 18 years and above. Associations between gender and knowledge of available mHealth services, use of existing mHealth services and intentions to use mHealth services in the future were examined by multivariate logistic regression analysis, controlling for the effect of categorised covariates.
Results: Of the 4915 respondents to the survey, 61.8% of men (1213/1964) and 34.4% of women (1015/2951) owned a mobile phone. For men, mobile phone ownership was highest among those aged 18–29 years (n = 663, 76.3%), and for women among those aged 30–39 years (n = 825, 44.7%). A higher proportion of men owned phones compared to women, irrespective of socioeconomic status (SES) as indicated by asset index (p < 0.001). Although mobile phone ownership on average was lower among women, they were more likely to share their mobile phone with their family members (19.7%) compared to men (11.6%, p < 0.001). Greater number of men were more likely to be aware of the use of mobile phones for healthcare compared to women (38.5% vs 26.5%, p < 0.001). Knowledge about available mHealth services was lower among women than men; however, intention to use mHealth services in the future was high for both genders, irrespective of age, education and socioeconomic status.
Conclusions: Compared to men, women are less likely to own a mobile phone and less aware of available mHealth services, despite high intention to use mHealth among both genders. To optimise the use of mHealth services and to achieve equity of use, uptake strategies should target women, with a focus on the poorer and less educated groups.