March 8 was International Women's Day, meant to highlight the pivotal role that women play in their societies and the unequal status that many women still have in many parts of the world. In the days leading up to it, the GSMA Development Fund hosted a workshop in London on how mobile phones are helping women to empower themselves and to raise their standard of living. During this workshop, cross-sector leaders from organizations as diverse as CARE International, Telenor and the South African government discussed how to accelerate women’s ownership of mobile phones for social and economic empowerment.
These discussions centered on a wide range of issues including overcoming the barriers to phone ownership by women and tailoring mobile services – such as mLearning, mFinance, mHealth -- to the unique needs of women. The workshop came just weeks after the launch of Women & Mobile: A Global Opportunity, a new report authored by Vital Wave Consulting and sponsored by the GSMA Development Fund and the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women, which is getting considerable notice in the press.
The report, which found that closing the mobile phone gender gap could add 300 million new female subscribers and represents a $13 billion annual revenue opportunity for mobile operators, was recently cited in the Washington Post's Post Tech blog. Vital Wave CEO Brooke Partridge was quoted in the article as saying “Cell phones are more ubiquitous in the developing world so you have to look at development through cell phones because people don’t have alternative forms of access."