Giving her a mobile phone makes economic sense

SHAILI CHOPRA: This past week I spent a lot of time discussing how digital has changed the lives of women. There are lots of new communities, ideas and platforms where women are logging in for new conversations. But the numbers tell a different story.

Fact is that most of the unconnected populations are women. Not enough of them own mobile phones. In low- and middle-income countries alone, there are 1.7 billion women who do not own a mobile phone today, says a McKinsey Report. For those who do own one, the internet usage is prohibitively low and consumption of data and content is less intense. The opportunity is spelt by this gap, which reflects upon the fact that phone penetration is less ubiquitous in rural regions. Successfully targeting women not only unlocks significant growth potential for the mobile industry but also advances women’s digital and financial inclusion. In fact, closing the gender gap in mobile phone ownership and usage could unlock an estimated $170 billion market opportunity for the mobile industry in the period from 2015 to 2020. Women in South Asia are 38% less likely to own a mobile phone. Social media statistics also reflect this disproportion. Less than 30% women use social media, purportedly because it’s an ‘unsafe’ place. Ankhi Das, policy head of Facebook, brings an important and real perspective to these figures. “It has a lot to do with access to resources. The deeper normative values we need to look at as a society before saying that it’s only because of safety concerns that people aren’t online. If I as a family have a data plan, and I come from a middle-income status which is subject to certain kind of normative values, and if I have both a son and a daughter, I will give the data plan to the son and not the daughter.

I think this is a false binary that safety issues are keeping women from coming online.” According to a UN Women Survey, “Gender barriers are real. One in five women in India and Egypt believes the Internet is not “appropriate” for them.”

The most powerful outcome of internet use is the fact that it decentralises work centres and therefore makes empowerment widespread. India’s growing cities are the hotbed of talent, especially among women. In Lucknow, Indore, Jaipur, Pune and many other cities, there is a growing network of women entering the start-up space. Many are turning homes into home-offices, some are catering out food with orders via the internet, there are those who are selling fashion garments on WhatsAPP and artists and musicians building pages to project themselves from Gachibawli to global audiences.

The trends are fascinating. Despite challenging and evolving business cycles, entrepreneurs are reinventing ideas to gratify to needs of the current market. The young generation is open to change, to be diversified and go with ideas that will work in the new demand environment.

Posted by on September 19, 2016. Filed under Technology. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.