GSMA Launches mWomen Programme

The GSM Association (GSMA) has launched the GSMA mWomen Programme, designed to bring the socio-economic benefits of mobile to women in developing markets worldwide. The launch follows the GSMA’s report with the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women, which examined the mobile phone gender gap. The programme is a public-private partnership between the global mobile industry and the international development community, and aims to halve the gender gap from 300m and bring the power of mobile to more than 150m women in developing markets, within three years. The GSMA says there is a strong incentive for the private sector to lend their support, as closing the mobile phone gender gap represents a $13bn incremental, annual revenue opportunity for mobile operators worldwide.

The initiative was formally launched yesterday by Rob Conway, CEO of the GSMA, with US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, and Cherie Blair, founder, Cherie Blair Foundation for Women. Speaking at the launch, Cherie Blair said: “Mobile phones are an indispensible personal, economic and development tool, but 300m women are missing out on the mobile revolution.  Helping more women access mobile technology means they can feel safer, improve their literacy, access vital health information and generate a better income. I am thrilled to be an mWomen champion. I know this programme will succeed because it has support from all sectors. It is only by working together in partnership that we can achieve results.” 
The GSMA mWomen Programme will address the key barriers to women’s access to mobile phones, including total cost of ownership, technical literacy, and cultural barriers to adoption. The vision of the programme is that by increasing access to mobile connectivity and services, women living on less than $2 per day will achieve a greater sense of security, independence, economic opportunity and connection with the world outside their homes. This in turn will lead to greater empowerment and control over their lives and those of their families.

The programme is aligned with the UN Millennium Development Goals, particularly MDG 3 on Gender Equity, and ECOSOC’s renewed focus on the need for greater investment in women and girls (June 2010) with the dedicated support of mWomen champions Cherie Blair, Ambassador Melanne Verveer, UNDP Administrator Helen Clark, President of Liberia Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and Judith Rodin President Rockefeller Foundation.

The key components of the GSMA mWomen programme include: offering technical assistance, with activities focused on catalysing the mobile industry to work collectively to close the gender gap and track progress, including development of business cases for mobile phone operators; and providing value-added services – life-changing services in the areas of health, education, finance and entrepreneurship, to be delivered by mobile phone operators in partnership with the international development community.

The GSMA has already secured commitment to the programme from the following 20 mobile companies operating in over 115 developing countries: AT&T, Banglalink, Bharti Airtel, Cell C, Dialog, Digicel, IDEA Cellular, Maxis, Mobitel, Mobilink, MTN, France Telecom/Orange, Orascom, Roshan, Safaricom, SMART, Telenor, Telefónica, Uninor and Vodafone.

Nokia has also committed to the programme by piloting womens information initiatives under its Ovi Life Tools service, focusing specifically on healthcare and education. Nokia will share with the GSMA mWomen Programme elements of its commissioned research into the barriers that may be preventing access to telecommunications services from a functional design, technological and affordability perspective. Nokia will also work with other GSMA committed partners in exploring ways to reduce the total cost of ownership and thus increase accessibility amongst women.

To support the programme, the GSMA has also launched the ‘mWomen Base of the Pyramid Apps Challenge’. The challenge is sponsored by Vodafone and aims to stimulate activity to meet the significant demand for innovative app design and to provide original and fresh customised app solutions targeted at the specific needs of women in developing countries.

This global competition is open to all and offers the opportunity to create the ultimate app for women in developing countries. It is is a two-tier competition; Tier 1 will be an app for a low-end device or feature phone and Tier 2 will be an app for smartphones. The winners will be announced at the 2011 GSMA Mobile World Congress in Barcelona on Tuesday 15 February. There’s a $10,000 cash prize for the inner of each tier.