Browsing articles tagged with " mobile phones"
Mar 23, 2012
Center for Democracy and Civil Society

Women and Mobile Phones at the “Base of the Pyramid”

It is one of the more exciting benefits of the Social Age that major development organizations sometimes hold conference calls for bloggers to ask questions about programming efforts. This week I took advantage of the trend and dialed in to one held by USAID and GSMA regarding a new report on women’s access to mobile services in the developing world.

The report, which launched during the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona a few weeks ago, focuses on an often-overlooked aspect of the use of technology-based solutions for development. According to its findings, women who live on less than $2 per day are 21% less likely to own a mobile phone than men in comparable situations. This is certainly powerful information at a time when the power of the mobile phone to solve the world’s ills has been heralded widely.

The mobile gender gap, it seems, is deeply rooted. Here are a few of the more sobering conclusions drawn by USAID’s Maura O’Neill and GSMA’s Trina DasGupta:

Women don’t see a need. Worldwide, most women do not see the advantages of owning a mobile phone. While a very high majority of women contacted by the survey would like to receive healthcare information, for example, such as family planning information, only 30% would want to receive it through a mobile phone. Much work needs to be done make the benefits of mobile technology more practical and upfront to women.

Women don’t like the tools we promote. The international community may be relying too much on SMS communication to the detriment of development. According to the survey, the heavy majority of women don’t “enjoy” sending SMS messages. Modes of communication with unenjoyable user experiences may not be useful for empowerment communication. Instead of staying on the SMS bandwagon, it may be worth looking into voice-based mobile tools, a much-preferred method, to promote women’s mobile inclusion.

Women need infrastructure first. Until alternative and low-cost energy solutions are in place in much of the developing world, it will be difficult for women to have comparable mobile accessibility rates to men. 38% of women surveyed were living off-grid without an electricity source and therefore could use mobile phones at all; without an off-site place of work or daily travel outside the home to charge the phone, there really is no way to get connected.

Some have argued that no technology innovation has changed the world more deeply than mobile phones. But in order for USAID and GSMA to reduce the mobile gender gap by 50% in the next two years, as is their goal, it will take a strong re-consideration of existing norms and practices in ICT4dev. Simply slapping mobile phones in peoples’ hands and developing useful applications works for some, but obviously not for all.

Interested in the GSMA-USAID study? Don’t worry, it’s not entirely negative! Check out the short report, “Portrait: A Glimpse into the Lives of Women at the Base of the Pyramid,” and the full one, “Striving and Surviving: Exploring the Lives of Women at the Base of the Pyramid.”

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Jan 31, 2011
Center for Democracy and Civil Society

Call for Papers: D&S Vol. 8, Iss. 2

We are seeking well-written, interesting submissions of 1500-2000 words on the themes below, including summaries and/or excerpts of recently completed research, new publications, and works in progress. Submissions for the issue are due Friday, March 4, 2011. Continue reading »

Feb 25, 2010
Center for Democracy and Civil Society

Already doing it

I had a great idea after listening to Secretary Clinton’s speech on internet freedom. I wondered whether it would be possible to use mobile phones to improve governance in Africa. Today I found out that not only is the answer yes, but that someone is already doing it.

Founded in 2004, Democracy and Society is a biannual print journal published by the Center for Democracy and Civil Society at Georgetown University. The D&S Blog provides web-only content, including special reports and investigative series, on issues relating to democracy and development.

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