Empowering Women Through Mobile Technology

August 18, 2011
  • Cammie Erickson

    Former Manager, BSR

Google’s announcement this week to buy Motorola Mobility for US$12.5 billion signals its move into the telecommunications hardware business and provides further evidence that mobile technology is on the rise—and here to stay.

Mobile ownership has skyrocketed in recent years, not only in developed countries but also in emerging economies. But is everyone benefitting equally from this technology? Studies show that there is a significant mobile phone gender gap: 300 million fewer women around the world have access to mobile technology than men. According to recent reports, a woman is 21 percent less likely to own a mobile phone than a man in her country and that figure increases to 23 percent if the woman lives in Sub-Saharan Africa, 24 percent in the Middle East, and 37 percent in South Asia.

Earlier this summer, the GSMA mWomen Programme—an innovative public-private partnership among the U.S. Department of State, GSMA, and the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women—published a report outlining four policy recommendations to address this gender gap. The recommendations include: reducing the total cost of ownership of a mobile phone, removing cultural barriers to mobile phone ownership and access, addressing limited technical literacy among women at the base of the pyramid, and encouraging the development of value-added mobile services that benefit women in particular.

While action in all four areas is crucial to close this gap, the fourth recommendation around value-added mobile services for women should not be overlooked. Mobile technology is particularly powerful for women because it is a tool that can improve literacy, facilitate job connections, improve access to health information, and further financial inclusion efforts (and the list goes on!). While access to mobile technology is the first step, getting phones in the hands of women will not guarantee that they will benefit fully from the technology. This is where companies, policy makers, and NGOs can play a crucial role.

A few innovations and partnerships that target women through mobile technology include:

Do you know of any other partnerships or innovations that are improving women’s lives through mobile technology?

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