The International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) is collaborating with the U.K.-based Cherie Blair Foundation for Women to identify technologies that are helping women entrepreneurs in India overcome barriers unique to them.
The effort builds on ICRW's analysis of how technology can economically strengthen women and comes at a significant time. Donors and private corporations are giving more attention to technology’s role in increasing agricultural productivity, alleviating poverty and addressing other global development matters. The issue of technology also is on the radar of U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
On Oct. 7, Clinton announced the launch of the mWomen initiative, a joint project by the Cherie Blair Foundation and the GSMA Development Fund. The effort will promote mobile technologies as tools for international development and women's empowerment.
Clinton said that while mobile technology is not a silver bullet, the spread of cell phones creates new possibilities in the fight against poverty, hunger, corruption and disease. However, for 300 million women in low- and middle-income countries, "the technology is still out of reach...because of an array of economic and social barriers."
"We're called to close the mobile gender gap because of our commitment to fairness and because of our commitment to progress," Clinton said. "Investing in women's progress is the most direct and effective way to invest in progress economically and socially."
For ICRW and the Cherie Blair Foundation, their shared research is examining how information and communication technologies (ICT), such as mobile phones, can enable women to conquer barriers that otherwise might limit their business efforts, possibly even preclude them altogether. The research is focused in India because of that nation’s rapidly developing economy, where cell phone users number second to those in China and where there is high interest in entrepreneurial ventures.
However, “access to and use of technologies in India vary widely by gender, location and other factors,” said Anjala Kanesathasan, a senior public health specialist at ICRW. “We want to better understand the emerging trends in this area and how women entrepreneurs are using technology, as well as the barriers that inhibit their access to it. All of this will help us identify the factors that need to be in place for women entrepreneurs to thrive economically.”
Gillian Gaynair is ICRW’s writer/editor.
Photos © David Synder/ICRW