The GSM Association launched the Connected Women Commitment Initiative at Mobile World Congress 2016, with the goal of reducing the mobile gender gap by connecting millions more women in low- and middle-income countries by 2020.
The first GSMA operator members to make commitments under the initiative in their respective markets include Dialog Axiata, Digi Telecommunications, Indosat Ooredoo, Ooredoo Maldives, Ooredoo Myanmar, Robi Axiata, Tigo Rwanda and Turkcell.
Existing and potential commitments amongst those cellcos include things like 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 programs and interactive content.
Participating cellcos aim to increase the proportion of their female customers to support the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls. This would build on the 15 million women already benefiting from female-focused services offered by the GSMA’s Connected Women operator partners, said GSMA Director General Mats Granryd.
“In an increasingly connected world, women are currently being left behind,” said Granryd in a statement. “GSMA research estimates there are 200 million fewer women than men who own a mobile phone in low- and middle-income countries. 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. Ensuring digital and financial inclusion for women is critically important, as when women thrive, societies, businesses and economies thrive.”
Closing the gender gap in mobile phone ownership and usage in the developing world could unlock an estimated $170 billion market opportunity for the mobile industry between 2015 and 2020, according to the GSMA.
“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. “We commit to increasing the proportion of women in our mobile internet customer base in Malaysia from 42% to 47% by 2020.”
“There is much more operators can do to encourage gender diversity and increase women’s ownership and use of the mobile phone,” said Dato' Sri Jamaludin Ibrahim, managing director, president and group CEO of Axiata. “Improved access to mobile services opens up possibilities for women and girls in education, healthcare, enterprise and business.”