Aircel, Bharti Airtel and Vodafone join GSMA’s Connected Women initiative

Connected Women Commitment Initiative
Credit: Yavuz Sariyildiz/Shutterstock.com

The GSMA announced that Indian operators Aircel, Bharti Airtel and Vodafone have signed on for its Connected Women Commitment Initiative, which focuses on reducing the gender gap in mobile internet and mobile money services.

All three cellcos have made a commitment to increase the number of women accessing mobile internet services, with additional commitment from Vodafone to grow its base of female mobile money customers. Collectively representing over 100 million customers in these service areas, Aircel, Bharti Airtel and Vodafone join with other GSMA operator members in committing to connect millions more women in low- and middle-income countries by 2020.

GSMA research has shown that in India, there are significant gender gaps in mobile internet and mobile money services, which prevent women from reaping the full benefits of mobile phone ownership. Further, according to the World Bank’s Findex 2014 data, women in India are 66% less likely to have used and benefitted from mobile money services in the past 12 months.

Addressing the gender gap in mobile phone ownership is an important topic that business leaders and governments will be discussing at the GSMA’s Mobile 360 – India event, where the announcement was made, said GSMA director general Mats Granryd.

“GSMA research shows that South Asia has the highest gender gap globally in mobile phone ownership and that women in India are estimated to be 36% less likely to own a mobile than men, translating into an estimated 114 million fewer women who are benefiting from mobile services, Granryd said. “Ensuring digital and financial inclusion for women is essential, because when women thrive, societies and economies thrive.”

These latest commitments by three of India’s leading operators build on the 15 million women already benefiting from female-focused services offered by GSMA Connected Women operator partners. Through the Connected Women Commitment Initiative, operators are working to increase the proportion of their female customers, supporting the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), in particular SDG 5, which focuses on achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls.

Operators participating in the Connected Women Commitment Initiative are implementing a range of programs to address the gender gap, including: increasing the number of female agents; improving the data top-up process to be safer and more appealing to women; and improving digital literacy among women through educational programmes and interactive content.

Closing the gender gap in mobile phone ownership and usage in the developing world could unlock an estimated $170 billion market opportunity for the mobile industry in the period from 2015 to 2020.

The Connected Women Commitment Initiative was launched in February 2016 and has now received 30 commitments from 22 operators, including Dialog Axiata in Sri Lanka, Digi Telecommunications (Digi) in Malaysia, Indosat Ooredoo in Indonesia, Ooredoo Maldives, Orange Mali, Ooredoo Myanmar, Robi Axiata in Bangladesh, Smart Burundi, Smart Tanzania, Smart Uganda, Tigo Chad, Tigo Ghana, Tigo Rwanda Tigo Senegal, Tigo Tanzania, Turkcell and Zantel. That totals well over 200 million mobile internet and mobile money customers where a mobile operator has made a commitment (i.e. mobile internet or mobile money).

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