Closing the Gender Gap Panel 1: mWomen – Empowering women through mobile technology

The room was buzzing as Trina DasGupta, mWomen Programme Director introduced the GSMA mWomen Programme and its aims of addressing the key barriers to women’s access to mobile phones in the developing world; creating an enabling market environment by developing the mWomen business case for MNOs and delivering life changing services via the mobile channel through public/private partnerships with the international development community. This was highlighted by the news from Dr Maura O’Neill, Senior Counselor to the Administrator for Innovation at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), who announced at the event that USAID has granted the GSMA mWomen Programme $500,000 to develop the mWomen Business Case.

The first panel of the afternoon discussed how women living on under US$2 a day can be empowered through mobile technology. Moderated by Jalak Jobanputra, Director of Mobile Investments, Omidyar Network, panellists included Dr Maura O’Neill, Lars Reichelt, CEO, Cell C; Lee Epting, Director of Content Services, Vodafone Group, Jan Chipchase, Executive Creative Director of Global Insights, frog design and Wenchi Yu, Policy Advisor of the Secretary’s Office of Global Women’s Issues in the U.S. Department of State. The First Lady of Namibia, Her Excellency Mrs. Penehupifo Pohamba was called away on state business at the last minute and was therefore represented by Cora Neumann, MPH Co-Director, African First Ladies Initiative, RAND.

In a lively discussion, the panellists talked passionately about the huge opportunity that targeting women at the base of the pyramid presents; the power of the mobile phone to spark entrepreneurial activities; to improve health and to enable women to have an identity and a private space to express that identity. Questions from the floor included how can we target women in very traditional and conservative societies? What should prompt companies to target women? The importance of creating not only business cases but also prototypes for targeting women was also keenly discussed.

We’ll be back soon with more details and footage from the panel in the meantime, let us know what you think: how much power does the mobile have? Is it really the next media platform? How can businesses and the public sector help women access it? Share your thoughts here.

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