Mobile Phones for Women: A New Approach for Social Welfare in the Developing World
Monday, December 20, 2010
Telecoms, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and nonprofits are pushing to put mobile phones directly in the hands of women in low- and middle-income countries
A 2010 report by London-based telecom industry advocacy group GSMA (for Groupe Speciale Mobile Association) and the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women found a “mobile gender gap” in low- and middle-income countries: women are 21 percent less likely than men to own a mobile phone. The rate is highest in Asia, at 37 percent. Once they get phones women nearly uniformly report feeling safer, more connected and more independent. Nearly half say the phones help increase income and professional opportunities.
So, in October GSMA launched the “mWomen Program,” with support from Cherie Blair and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (“mWomen” is for mobile women). The goal is to half the number of women in the developing world who lack mobile phones within three years by putting phones in the hands of another 150 million women.
GSMA’s mWomen working group met in Chennai, India, in early November. Twenty-three organizations, including the telecom Ericsson, representing 115 developing countries committed to the project. And the program’s recently announced “app challenge“-which solicits apps for simple cell phones and smart phones that can help to address the needs of women living at the “base of the pyramid” in the developing world-has received dozens of entries, including one from Souktel.