GSMA and the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women Publish ‘Women & Mobile: A Global Opportunity’ Report

The GSMA and the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women, a charity that supports women entrepreneurs today published ‘Women and Mobile: A Global Opportunity’.  The report, the first detailed global study of its kind, attempts to understand the nature of women mobile subscribers in low and middle-income countries such as Kenya and India, and highlights the barriers facing women’s adoption of mobile technologies. It also shows that, by extending the benefits of mobile phone ownership to more women, a host of social and economic goals can be advanced.

The report reveals for the first time the extent of the gender gap in mobile usage in many low and middle-income countries.  It shows that a woman in a low or middle-income country is 21% less likely to own a mobile phone than a man. Closing this gender gap would bring the benefits of mobile phones to an additional 300 million women, empowering and enabling them to stay better connected with family and friends, improving their safety, and helping them obtain paid work, in line with the third UN Millennium Development Goal on gender equality.  The mobile phone as documented in the report is an effective productivity and development tool which creates education, health, employment, banking and business opportunities.

“I am delighted that the GSMA is working with the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women on this important initiative and hope that together we can develop solutions which will empower and enable women and address the barriers that have been highlighted,” said Rob Conway, CEO and Member of the Board, GSMA. “Mobile has proved to be a key element in today’s society as it is the most ubiquitous, connected and personalised communications tool that we have, and holds significant potential in bringing the benefits of connectivity to most of the developing world and reaching families at the bottom of the economic pyramid.”

Cherie Blair, Founder of the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women: “Every woman, wherever she lives, needs a mobile phone.  That’s the simple but fundamental message at the heart of this report.  Women can use this vital tool to help unlock real prospects for themselves, their families and their communities.  By being better connected, women feel safer, find employment, start businesses, access banks, learn about market prices and altogether benefit socially and economically.  “Women and Mobile” is a seminal report that should be read by all who care about the life chances of women.”

Key findings show that:

  • There are 300 million fewer female subscribers than male subscribers worldwide
  • A woman is 21% less likely to own a phone than a man in low and middle-income countries – 23% in Africa, 24% in the Middle East, and 37% in South Asia
  • Regionally, the incremental annual revenue opportunity for operators ranges from US$740M in Latin America to US$4B in East Asia
  • Going forward, two thirds of potential new subscribers for mobile network operators will be women
  • Women in rural areas and lower income brackets stand to benefit the most from closing the gender gap
  • 93% of  women report feeling safer because of their mobile phone
  • 85% of women report feeling more independent because of their mobile phone
  • 41% of women report having increased income and professional opportunities once they own a phone

The report highlights that women account for 750 million of the 1.25 billion adults in low and middle-income countries who have mobile phone coverage, but don’t have a handset.  If operators bring mobile phone penetration among women on a par with penetration among men, this report shows they would collectively earn US$13 billion in additional revenues each year. Findings indicate that greater usage of mobile phones by women would stimulate social and economic growth, while generating subscriber and revenue growth for mobile operators. Previous research by Deloitte has shown that a 10% increase in mobile phone penetration rates is linked to an increase in developing country GDP by 1.2%.

The research calls for the mobile industry, development community and policy makers to undertake a number of steps together including, specifically addressing women in segmentation strategies and marketing tactics; creating innovative programmes to increase the uptake of mobile phones amongst women; promoting the mobile phone as a life enhancing, effective development tool which creates education, health, employment, banking and business opportunities; and designating high-profile champions of mobile phones for women. Developing a comprehensive plan for empowering women with mobile phones will require the involvement of all stakeholders from the private, non-profit and public sectors. Each stakeholder will need to take steps on their own, but also work together for maximum impact and to close this gap.

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