The GSMA today announced the launch of the Connected Women Commitment Initiative, aimed at reducing the mobile gender gap and connecting millions more women in low- and middle-income countries by 2020.
Dialog Axiata PLC in Sri Lanka, Digi Telecommunications Sdn Bhd (Digi) in Malaysia, Indosat Ooredoo in Indonesia, Ooredoo Maldives, Ooredoo Myanmar, Robi Axiata Limited in Bangladesh, Tigo Rwanda and Turkcell in Turkey are initial supporters.
GSMA estimates there are 200 million fewer women than men who own a mobile phone in low- and middle-income countries.
In a study conducted by the GSMA, across 11 countries studied, the top five barriers to mobile phone ownership and use by women are:
- High cost of mobile handsets and credit
- Poor network quality and coverage
- Security concerns and harassment over mobile phones
- Lack of trust in agents and operators
- Low technical literacy and confidence
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 socio-economic opportunities.
Existing and potential commitments amongst the mobile operators include, for example: increasing the number of female agents; improving the data top-up process to be safer and more appealing to women; and improving digital literacy among women through educational programmes and interactive content.
Closing the gender gap in mobile phone ownership and usage in the developing world could unlock an estimated US$170 billion market opportunity for the mobile industry in the period 2015-2020.