GSMA launched the Connected Women Commitment Initiative, with initial commitments from operator members aiming to connect millions more women in low and middle-income countries by 2020.
The aim is to support the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.
The work builds on projects that already see 15 million women benefiting from female-focused services offered by the GSMA’s Connected Women operator partners.
GSMA research estimates there are 200 million fewer women than men who own a mobile phone in low and middle-income countries.
And even when women 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,” said Mats Granryd, GSMA’s director general.
The first operator members to have made Connected Women Commitments in their markets include Dialog Axiata in Sri Lanka, Digi Telecommunications in Malaysia, Turkcell, Indosat Ooredoo in Indonesia and Tigo Rwanda.
Existing and future commitments 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.
Tigo Rwanda, for instance, is committed to increasing the number of women using mobile financial services from 39 per cent to 45 per cent by 2020.
According to its CEO, Tongai Maramba: “Women take on a significant amount of responsibility for their families’ financial management, including emergency payments, remittances and daily domestic management; in fact women direct up to 90 per cent of their income to their families and communities.”
“Increasing women’s access to mobile financial services will in turn allow them to improve their quality of life, that of their families and that of their communities,” the executive added.
What’s more, the GSMA said 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 in the period 2015-2020.