IMPACT
10/05/2015 09:57 am ET Updated Oct 09, 2015

100 Million Women In Developing Countries To Receive Free Cell Phones

Access to a cell phone means more opportunities in education, financial independence, more.
Human Activity On Mother Earth. via Getty Images

Worldwide, 300 million fewer women than men own a cell phone. a disparity that deprives women of educational, health and financial opportunities.

To level the playing field, two major companies have committed to providing 100 million women with mobile technology over the next five years. 

Tata Communications and Mastercard announced their plan to join up in order to bring the technology to women in need at this year’s Clinton Global Initiative. They’re launching the program in India, Nigeria, Indonesia and Guatemala, with the goal of initially targeting 25,000 women.

Giving a woman in a developing country access to such technology plays a key role in her educational development, financial independence and overall well-being.

In Haiti, for example, underserved women often don’t have access to bank accounts, leaving them particularly vulnerable, Melinda Gates noted in an op-ed for The New York Times. 

Women there typically keep their money hidden in pots and fields and are constantly worried about thieves. Getting a loan in an emergency situation is often impossible for them.

Digital financing, however, could change that. Such services could connect 2 billion people to their first bank accounts, Gates added.

Mobile technology also plays a pivotal role in bringing education to people in need who wouldn’t otherwise have access to reading material.

Of the more than 4,000 people surveyed in a seven developing countries, 62 percent said they are reading more as a result of mobile applications, a 2014 UNESCO study found. Many noted that it’s less expensive than buying books, while others said they wouldn’t otherwise even have access to such material. 

Mobile technology has also proven to serve as a lifesaving resource for women in developing countries.

Pregnant women and new mothers who live in rural areas often face greater health risks because they lack access to medical clinics.

To ensure that pregnant women and new moms are armed with the information they need to protect themselves and their babies, a number of groups have developed mobile platforms that can reach women everywhere and save as many as 800 women a day who die from preventable conditions, Reuters reported in 2013.

One such group is Zero Mothers Die, a mobile program that provides critical maternal, newborn and child health information.

“Three billion people will come online over the next decade primarily from the developing world,” Rangu Salgame, CEO, Growth Ventures Group, Tata Communications, said in a statement. “We now have our generation’s greatest opportunity to unshackle women from endless cycles of poverty and dependency by providing them with access to information and economic opportunities.”

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