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The GSM Association (GSMA) has renewed its commitment to enable more women to access mobile technology and services at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, in support of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal to achieve gender equality and empowerment.
Its Connected Women Commitment Initiative is specifically aimed at closing the mobile gender gap, and will see a number of operators in emerging economies, with over 75 million mobile internet and money customers between them, seek to increase the proportion of female customers.
The GSMA estimated that closing the gender gap in mobile phone ownership and use in the developing world could be worth $170bn (£123m) to the mobile industry between now and the end of the current decade.
More importantly, the organisation also hopes that getting mobile devices into the hands of more women will stimulate widespread social benefits by enhancing access to education, family planning and healthcare, and more economic opportunities and freedoms.
GSMA director general Mats Granryd said women were being left behind in an increasingly connected world. “There are 200 million fewer women than men who own a mobile phone in low- and middle-income countries,” he said.
“But even when women do own a mobile device, they are far less likely to use it for more sophisticated services, such as mobile internet and mobile money, and therefore miss out on key socioeconomic opportunities. Ensuring digital and financial inclusion for women is critically important, as when women thrive, societies, businesses and economies thrive,” added Granryd.
Bridging the digital gender divide
The operators that have committed to the scheme in their markets at launch are Dialog Axiata in Sri Lanka, Digi Telecommunications in Malaysia, Indosat Ooredoo in Indonesia, Ooredoo Maldives, Ooredoo Myanmar, Robi Axiata in Bangladesh, Tigo in Rwanda and Turkcell in Turkey.
“In Malaysia, six million women have yet to access the internet, and bridging the digital gender gap will help ensure these women can be active participants and contributors in the digital economy,” said Digi CEO Albern Murty.
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“We hope to see every Malaysian woman connected and empowered because we believe these efforts will cause a socioeconomic ripple effect for the betterment of families, communities and society at large,” added Murty.
“Tigo Rwanda is committed to increasing the number of women using mobile financial services from 39% to 45% by 2020,” said Tigo CEO Tongai Maramba.
“Women take on a significant amount of responsibility for their families’ financial management, including emergency payments, remittances and daily domestic management; in fact, women direct up to 90% of their income to their families and communities. Increasing women’s access to mobile financial services will in turn allow them to improve their quality of life, that of their families and that of their communities,” he added.
Some of the primary commitments being undertaken include hiring more women into the mobile networking business, improving data top-up processes to be safer and more appealing to women, and improving digital literacy through educational programmes and interactive content. Around 15 million women are already benefiting from female-focused services offered by operators in the wider Connected Women scheme.