TEMECULA, California — Cellphone use is a common part of today’s world and can be taken for granted; however, cellphones are not accessible to everyone, especially to those living in developing nations. What can be taken for granted in one country can help save millions in another.
Digital services provided by technologies such as cellphones positively impacts developing nations in particular. Something as simple as checking bank account information or handling finances through cellphone use can not only empower people but can become a means of survival for the poor, specifically poor women. More than that, access to cellphones for women can help bring entire families out of poverty. In order to do that, however, there needs to be an increase in cellphone access.
“People at the base of the economic pyramid need to be empowered with the right tools to find employment and build businesses that will enable them to eventually escape poverty. Among the most important of these tools is a mobile phone,” explains Rob Conway, Chief Executive Officer for GSMA (an association of mobile operators). “Over the past five years, the mobile industry has made extraordinary progress in bringing the benefits of connectivity to most of the developing world, but there was growing anecdotal evidence to suggest that women in these regions weren’t benefiting as much as men.”
Cellphones are not as accessible, especially for women. According to “Women & Mobile: A Global Opportunity, a study on the mobile phone gender gap in low and middle-income countries,” women in low income countries are 21 percent less likely to possess a cellphone than a male counterpart. Yet, women and cellphone use in developing countries has been proven crucial to helping reduce global poverty.
Providing women in developing nations with cellphones can change their lives and their economies along with it. Through cellphones, people can connect with each other as well as with their bank accounts. The financial responsibility also becomes easier and more manageable. Additionally, introducing cellphones to women would not only benefit the global market, but it would help lift millions of people out of poverty as well.
The reason cellphone use is important, especially for women, is largely due to the fact that women and men spend money differently and for different purposes. Women spend money on health, food, education and other similar services that ensure the well-being of her family. According to an article by the New York Times, a household budgeted and controlled by a woman has a 20 percent higher chance of survival.
Companies that offer digital financial services such as bKash changed the way Bangladesh does business. Cellphone access is not only changing an individual’s ability to do more with his or her life as a result of technology, but more than that, it is changing the way the country works and responds to cellphone use. But even in Bangladesh, only 44 percent of women have cellphones compared to 72 percent of men, and as a result, only 13 percent of women have access to bKash.
This is called the gender gap, and it’s not just occurring in Bangladesh, but in Africa, Asia and the Middle East as well. The gap affects the economy because women, who can serve as a huge market, are being isolated and in turn, are not benefiting the self, family or the economy. If women were to gain cellphone access and close the gender gap, they could become empowered members in their economic world and produce a type of growth that extends beyond their community. According to GSMA, by closing the gender gap, a $170 billion market can become available as a result.
Cellphone use, especially for women in developing nations, can help save lives and bring families out of poverty by stimulating economic growth and opening a new multi-billion dollar market.
“Closing this gap would empower more women, enabling them to be better connected with family and friends, while helping them obtain paid-for work or run their own businesses,” Conway says. “Greater usage of mobile phones by women would stimulate social and economic growth, while generating incremental subscriber and revenue growth for mobile operators.”
– Nada Sewidan