New Study: Indian Women Still Massive Untapped Market for Mobile Industry, Economic Growth

New Delhi/Mumbai/Bangalore – Information and communication technologies (ICTs) have enormous untapped potential to spur economic growth in low-income societies if they were tailored to meet women’s needs, according to a new report released today as the annual GSMA Mobile World Congress was underway in Barcelona.

The study, Connectivity: How Mobile Phones, Computers and the Internet Can Catalyze Women’s Entrepreneurship,” examines four innovative ICT projects that target just a few thousand women in several rural areas of India, and shows that mobile phones and applications in particular have the power to catalyze female entrepreneurship. The London-based Cherie Blair Foundation for Women and Washington, D.C.-based think tank, the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW), jointly published the report and stressed the urgent need for more investment in such initiatives that put critical communication tools into women’s hands.

Cherie Blair said: “There are still huge numbers who have yet to benefit from the mobile phone revolution in a country with half a billion women. There has been some progress but many more Indian women could use mobiles to boost their businesses, become financially independent and have a stronger voice in their societies.”

The report shows that the number of men who own mobile phones in India exceeds women by nearly 90 million. Translated into global terms, almost one-third of the 300 million-strong gender gap in mobile phone ownership worldwide can be found in India, one of the world’s fastest growing economies. Researchers saw firsthand how ICTs can catalyze women’s enterprise far from the hum of the country’s technology center in Mumbai, but also noted an enormous opportunity for growth could be missed without more public-private commitment.

A new mobile phone application designed by Sasken Communications Technologies, for example, is helping members of rural women’s savings and credit associations (“self help groups”) who sell products like honey reach larger and more distant markets than ever before. Mobile phones hold so much potential because they enable women to manage business ventures from their homes while also taking on family responsibilities like childcare.

Sarita, an entrepreneur in Chattisgarh State, said: “Now with all our business converging onto the mobile, and with the mobile making life so simple, I can think of growth without getting stressed. My markets, my vendors … they are all just an SMS away.”

After co-authoring a 2010 report on female global mobile phone ownership with the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women, GSMA launched its “mWomen” program, which aims to close the gender gap by harnessing the collective power of the private, public and nonprofit sectors to improve women’s lives through mobile technology. The International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) has in recent years examined a number of ways in which technology and innovation can help economically empower women, and as a result, the societies they live in.

ICRW President Sarah Degnan Kambou said: “Closing the technology gender gap could lead to tremendous economic advancement. Everyone wins when women have access to innovative apps and other tools designed specifically to help them run and grow businesses. Households earn more, parents have more money to spend on their children’s education and women lead more empowered lives.”

For more information about the report and its findings, or for an interview, please contact:

Sasken Communications Technologies: Setlur Raghavan Raja, in Barcelona attending the GSMA Mobile World Congress, [email protected], or Syed Mehdi in India, +91 (0) 9880 575 712, [email protected]

Cherie Blair Foundation for Women in London: Jillian Convey, +44 (0) 7818 533 065, [email protected]

InternationalCenter for Research on Women (ICRW) in Washington, D.C.: Jennifer Abrahamson, +1 202 742 1250 or +1 202 290 7975, [email protected]

Mission Statement:

ICRW’s mission is to empower women, advance gender equality and fight poverty in the developing world. To accomplish this, ICRW works with partners to conduct empirical research, build capacity and advocate for evidence-based, practical ways to change policies and programs.