Without question, mobile has transformed our lives, altering the world’s social and economic landscape, boosting the global economy and supporting millions of jobs. Mobile is becoming increasingly entrenched in our everyday lives, fundamentally changing the way that we go shopping, make payments, listen to music, access social media, watch videos, do business and so much more.
In emerging markets, mobile is often the only way to access the internet and to benefit from advances in remote health care, education and financial services. According to GSMA research, women are on average 14% less likely to own a mobile phone than men in low- and middle-income countries, which translates into 200 million fewer women than men who own a mobile phone. This gender gap increases when we look at more transformational services like the mobile internet and mobile money, which deliver significant digital and financial inclusion opportunities for women.
The reality is that mobile phones can actively empower women, helping them feel more connected and safe and providing access to information and life-enhancing opportunities – everything from safeguarding maternal health and birth registration to remote learning and entrepreneurship.
How can we drive change and ensure women are very much part of the digital world in which we now live? Above all, deliberate action and targeted intervention are needed to make this a reality. Women face many barriers to owning and using mobile phones, including cost, network quality and coverage, fear of having their mobile phones stolen or being harassed by strangers, technical literacy and confidence.
To tackle this, mobile operators in these regions are employing innovative approaches. For example, Tigo Rwanda was one of the operators to make Connected Women Commitments of extending mobile money and mobile internet services to women in Rwanda, and is committed to increasing the number of women using mobile financial services from 39% to 45% by 2020.
While these and other similar measures are certainly a step in the right direction, the mobile industry, policy makers and other key stakeholders need to work together closely to ensure women all over the world can realise the benefits of mobile services. To help realise a future where there is parity for mobile phone ownership, the GSMA recently launched its Connected Women Commitment Initiative to help reduce the global mobile gender gap.
This rise in female mobile customers will help support the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.
Through long-term, coordinated and concerted efforts amongst the GSMA’s operator members around the globe, we are focused on connecting millions more women, providing access to life-changing mobile internet and mobile money services and closing the digital gender gap so that half the world’s population is no longer left behind.