Wireless Technology Fighting Poverty, Inequality

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CAMBRIDGE, United Kingdom — We all know how technology continuously makes our lives easier, but do we also realize that technology can improve the lives of millions living in extreme poverty? As technology continuously advances, more and more progress is being made toward using technology to eradicate poverty and gender inequality.

The sixth Future of Wireless International Conference brought together leaders in the wireless industry from June 30 to July 1 at the Moller Centre in Cambridge, United Kingdom to discuss how wireless technologies can benefit societies and create new business opportunities–essentially, how technology can change the world.

According to Cambridge Wireless, more than half of the world’s population owns a wireless device, which has led to a newfound focus on how wireless technology can benefit those in need. Speakers and participants in the Future of Wireless International Conference addressed the impact technology can have on a variety of societal, environmental and health issues, such as the management of natural resources, the extensiveness of extreme poverty, and even the attainment of global education.

One such speaker was Cherie Blair, the founder of the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women, who focused on how developing wireless technologies can help eradicate extreme poverty and combat gender inequality. While the internet is something the majority of us view as a convenient tool, for millions the internet is a vital lifeline. According to Blair, “We can use it to reach out across the virtual world to help women to improve their lives and the lives of those around them. The rewards can be incalculable.”

Although some progress has been made toward the third Millennium Development Goal of promoting gender equality and empowering women, more work needs to be done to achieve full gender equality. According to the U.N., primary education promotes equality between boys and girls, but unfortunately this gender equality has yet to be seen in all levels of education, the workplace and the government.

To help combat this issue of gender inequality, the Cherie Blair Foundation has been providing women with the necessary skills, finance, technology and networks to become successful business owners since 2008 in hopes that a world in which women have equal opportunities will someday exist. Knowing that this is not an easy vision to attain, Blair also stressed at the Future of Wireless International Conference that “Making a real dent in this inequality will take cooperation across all sectors–public, private and non-profit.”

To support this vision further, this foundation recently launched two new programs to benefit women in developing countries. Through the Mentoring Women in Business Programme, business professionals all across the world can choose to mentor women entrepreneurs in Malaysia to help them gain the necessary skills and knowledge to begin a successful business. Acknowledging that technology is becoming a necessity for any business, the Cherie Blair Foundation has partnered with Qualcomm Wireless Reach so that participants in this program can easily contact one another by using 3G tablets.

The Cherie Blair Foundation also launched the Skilling for Change Programme in which mobile banking services and training in business development, financial literacy and investor readiness are all provided to women entrepreneurs in Rwanda. This specific program focuses on developing mobile technologies so these women can use a dependable mobile banking service.

Showing just how much wireless technology can change the world, organizations like the Cherie Blair Foundation and events like the Future of Wireless International Conference prove that the elimination of poverty can come from a variety of industries.

Meghan Orner

Sources: Cambridge Wireless, United Nations, Cherie Blair Foundation for Women 1, Cherie Blair Foundation for Women 2, Cabume
Photo: WCS Pittsburgh

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Meghan Orner

Meghan is a BORGEN Magazine writer from Norristown, Pennsylvania.

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