Gender, Cybersecurity and Fraud in DFS

December 21, 2020

This paper explores how issues and malfeasances relating to cybersecurity and cyber fraud differ based on gender, primarily focusing on women in relation to use of mobile-phone centric digital financial services (DFS) in developing countries in Africa and South Asia.

We find that women within the scope of our study may be more susceptible than men to malfeasances and other concerns related to cyber risks and cyber fraud as a result of inequalities and gender gaps that exist within developing countries. Women consistently ranked behind men with regard to access to, use of and experience with information and communication technologies, ownership of mobile hardware and DFS. Women were perceived to possess lower digital and language literacy rates and subjected to limiting social, cultural, religious and legal barriers. These factors often tied them to roles in private spaces, such as the family home. As such, access to important peer knowledge networks which disseminate timely information about cybersecurity and fraud issues was limited, which often occur in public spaces (such as the workplace, in the marketplace and social settings.) As a result, women’s overall cyber awareness and cyber hygiene levels would likely to be lower than men, including their capabilities to combat social engineering related fraud which appears to present a formidable challenge in developing countries.

Presently, a paucity of gender-disaggregated data exists and/or is available publicly related to information and communications technology and cybersecurity. Findings from relevant available data were supplemented by interviews conducted with regional and local experts and consultants in the field.

With faith in the security of financial systems and process being the mainstay of user adoption and use of services, we find that the distinct lack of quantitative and qualitative research on gender differences in susceptibility to fraud, social engineering attacks and cyber-attacks is a siren cry for additional focus and funding of this important issue by academic institutions, donor communities, and think tanks. Furthermore, mobile network operators, digital financial services providers and related governmental authorities and agencies are encouraged to increase their outreach to women, especially in rural areas, to increase their levels cyber awareness and hygiene and to address rapidly increasing cybercrime.

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