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On Facebook Indian Men Outnumber Women Three-to-One

The Wall Street Journal. logo The Wall Street Journal. 07-09-2016 Newley Purnell

As inexpensive smartphones allow millions of Indians online for the first time, internet newbies are rushing to sign up for Facebook at an unprecedented rate. Unfortunately, new data shows, an overwhelming majority of the Indians on the network are men.

A report this week from U.K. consultancy We Are Social found just 24% of India's 153 million Facebook users are women -- meaning there are more than three men on the platform for every woman.

That figure, one of the lowest in the world, illustrates that even as technology starts to trickle down to more Indians, women are not accessing some online tools at the same rate as their male counterparts.

Other big markets in the survey of 30 Asia-Pacific nations did much better. In Indonesia 41% of the country's 88 million Facebook users are women, while in the Philippines there are more women on the social network than men. Meanwhile 48% of Japan's Facebook users are women, while in Australia the rate stands at 53%.

Even countries poorer than India, including Cambodia and Myanmar, did better, each with more than 35% female Facebook users.

"There's no obvious reason for the imbalance" in South Asia, Simon Kemp, Singapore-based regional managing partner for Asia at We Are Social, wrote in the report.

Mr. Kemp said the Facebook data corresponds to individual accounts, meaning that even if devices like smartphones or computers are shared, the gender breakdown would still be accurate.

Asked about the apparent gender imbalance in India, a Facebook spokesman said the company is "committed to bringing women online through various initiatives as as the internet gives women a voice and allows their voices to be heard."

Men outnumber women on Facebook by a wide margin in other South Asian countries. In Pakistan, 22% of Facebook's 27 million users are women, while in Bangladesh, home to some 22 million users, the rate is 23%. It is 29% in Sri Lanka and 33% in Nepal.

India is already Facebook's second largest market outside of the U.S., We Are Social says. China does not allow its citizens to access the platform, so India is a key market for future growth given that hundreds of millions of people have still yet to get online.

In terms of active accounts in each country's most popular social network, the rate is just 12% in India. That's compared to 58% for China and 82% in South Korea. Only Papua New Guinea has a lower penetration rate than India in the Asia-Pacific region.

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