growth in access to mobile phones has not only made communication
easy, but also spurred economic and socio-economic benefits in many
countries. It is somewhat surprising to pause and note that mobile
applications that emerged out of local inventions for local needs -
such as mobile money for the unbanked, crowd sourcing tools used
during elections or humanitarian crises, and citizen mobile
journalism - were virtually unheard of only 5-6 years ago.
Even as mobile penetration has grown exponentially in countries such
as India, Kenya and Egypt, the digital divide between citizens in
these countries remains an issue. Despite rising access to mobile
phones and the steady growth of these countries’ economies, gender
inequities and income disparities continue to present barriers.
the obstacles preventing women in the bottom of the income pyramid
(BOP) from obtaining and using mobile phones, they may represent the
largest potential market for mobile access growth. According to a
recent GSMA report, “Women and Mobile: A Global Opportunity”, the
globe’s most disenfranchised women could actually present mobile
operators with a US$13 billion incremental, annual revenue
opportunity. In this light, closing the mobile phone “gender gap”
serves not only development goals, but may also be in the interest of
mobile operators aiming to be market leaders.
help development practitioners and mobile operators be alert to the
disparities and opportunities as countries continue to experience
economic growth and greater access to ICT technologies, we look at
three distinct regions: South Asia,
Sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East.