LIVE FROM GSMA MOBILE 360 INDIA: Three Indian mobile operators – Aircel, Bharti Airtel and Vodafone India – have joined GSMA’s Connected Women Commitment Initiative, which focuses on reducing the gender gap in mobile internet and mobile money services.

The three companies have committed to increasing the number of women accessing mobile internet services, with additional commitment from Vodafone to grow its base of female mobile money customers. Collectively representing more than 100 million mobile broadband and mobile money customers in India, Aircel, Airtel and Vodafone join other GSMA operator members in committing to connect millions more women in low- and middle-income countries by 2020.

GSMA research shows that India has a significant gender gap in mobile internet and mobile money services, which prevents women from reaping the full benefits of mobile phone ownership. In addition, according to the World Bank’s Findex 2014 data, women in India are 66 per cent less likely to have used and benefitted from mobile money services in the past 12 months.

Reducing the gap
“GSMA research shows that South Asia has the highest gender gap globally in mobile phone ownership and that women in India are estimated to be 36 per cent less likely to own a mobile than men, translating into an estimated 114 million fewer women who are benefitting from mobile services,” said Mats Granryd, GSMA’s director general. “Ensuring digital and financial inclusion for women is essential, because when women thrive, societies and economies thrive.”

The latest commitments by the three operators build on the 15 million women already benefitting from female-focused services offered by GSMA Connected Women operator partners. Through the initiative, operators are working to increase the proportion of their female customers, supporting the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), in particular SDG 5, which focuses on achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls.

Operators participating in the Connected Women Commitment Initiative are implementing a range of programmes to address the gender gap. These include 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. The GSMA claims that 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 from 2015 to 2020.

The Connected Women Commitment Initiative was launched in February and already has received 30 commitments from 22 operators, which have more than 200 million mobile internet and mobile money customers. In addition to Aircel, Airtel and Vodafone in India, signatories include Dialog Axiata in Sri Lanka, Digi Telecommunications in Malaysia, Indosat Ooredoo in Indonesia, Ooredoo Maldives, Orange Mali, Ooredoo Myanmar, Robi Axiata in Bangladesh, Smart Burundi, Smart Tanzania, Smart Uganda, Tigo Chad, Tigo Ghana, Tigo Rwanda Tigo Senegal, Tigo Tanzania, Turkcell and Zantel.