The Mobile Phone Gender Gap and Economic Development

Across a variety of indicators, a gender gap exists in favor of men. Mobile phone usage/ownership is no exception. In the developing world, men are 21% more likely to own a cell phone than women. This translates to roughly 300 million women.

As we spent a good deal of this week discussing the many benefits of mobile phone technology, one might note that these 300 million women lack access to these benefits, including improved communication, better economic opportunities, and increased access to information. Of women that do own cell phones, a large proportion (around 50%) use them to search for employment.

The mobile phone, as other technologies, is a tool for economic development. And, as we have learned throughout our IDEV classes, empowering women is an essential tool for economic development. It then comes as no surprise that Wayan Vota posits that women + mobile phones + mservices = economic development.

In this article, Mr. Vota considers the best way to translate female cell phone usage into genuine economic and social development. The solution: mservices. It has been found that women often do not have cell phones because they do not perceive a need for them. However, through improved mservices, women will likely more likely adopt this technology. The most important of these are mBanking, which would help women save money and improve their financial independence; mEmployment, which would help connect women with employment opportunities; mHealth, to help provide care to themselves and their families; and mAgriculture, because women make up most of locally consumed production. Access to services such as these might help lead to female empowerment and a good deal of economic growth and development. 



3 responses to “The Mobile Phone Gender Gap and Economic Development

  • abernst2

    This mobile phone gap is clearly an issue in ICT4D. The proposed solution of mservices on these phone is very interesting and probably has the potential to improve economic development. However, what about issues of Internet, price, and other mobile phones restrictions around the world? How could the gender gap for mobile phone usage/ownership be addressed when mservices aren’t a realistic option for a community?

  • mjurczuk

    I agree, there are plenty of valid obstacles to implementing technologies, like the ones you mentioned. However, a gender gap shouldn’t be one of them. It’s ridiculous that sexism–which can end with simply a change in outlook–can so greatly hurt a country’s economy. Ideally, gender issues would be addressed before further developmental steps (like ICT implementation) are introduced…personally I think that the efficacy of any type of developmental initiative would increase tenfold given the guarantee of gender equality. Unfortunately, that’s just unrealistic.

  • sydlicht

    I understand that there is a gender gap in access to ICTs, but I am not quite sure how this organization plans to address it. While empowering women through these devices would be beneficial to the economy, the root of the issue needs to be addressed. How are these devices going to be disseminate to women?

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