The answer to this question is yes, but the practical solutions to arm 150 million women in developing nations with a mobile phone isn’t as easy as it seems from the outset, even though the market is vast and ripe for technology.
On a conference call last week with USAID‘s Chief Innovation Officer, Maura O’Neill, and Trina DasGupta, mWomen Program Director for the GSMA, the issues were laid out that prevent most women from owning mobile phones in third-world countries. USAID and mWomen partnered to research the mobile market for women in developing nations and published ‘Portraits: A Glimpse into the Lives of Women at the Base of the Pyramid’. The research was conducted to find out more in-depth knowledge about how women who live on less than $2 a day feel about mobile phone ownership.
GSMA mWomen is aimed at reducing the mobile phone gender gap. Women are 21% less likely to own a mobile phone than men in developing nations. mWomen’s goal is to increase that by 50%.
“If you don’t intentionally look at women they will be unintentionally left behind,” said DasGupta.
The research was conducted in Papua New Guinea, India, Egypt, and Uganda. One reason mobile phone ownership is down is because women in all four countries expressed concerns that their husbands would not approve of them owning mobile phones.
“We learned that it is critically important that when we want to reach women in the mobile market we have to reach the family as a whole,” said DasGupta. “74% of the married women didn’t want to own a mobile phone because their husband wouldn’t allow it.”
Additionally, you have to take into consideration cost as well as access to technology that will keep mobile phones charged. Most of these women live off-the-grid so finding solar technology to charge phones will be another obstacle to get phones into the hands of these women.
Despite the obstacles 73% of the women want to be a part of entrepreneurship. They want to be their own boss and use mobile phones for retail enterprises and as a mobile money solution.