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Blog Posts by Christopher Burns

Designing for Women: The Mobile Challenge

by Christopher Burns, Economic Growth and Agricultural Development Advisor, U.S. Agency for International Development
December 6, 2012 - 10:20 AM

WISENET (Women in ICTs Shared Excellence Network) is the International Bureau’s convening platform that aims to leverage the experience, resources and connections of the international ICT community to better the situation of women, their communities and their countries. As part of this work, the FCC has invited prominent women and men in technology from around the world to post blogs sharing their experiences.

Imagine if you picked up a smartphone and didn’t know how to use it.  The frustration of of holding such a powerful device in the palm of your hand but not being able to use it could be enormous.  For many technically illiterate women in the developing world, navigating a smartphone or even a more basic feature phone is a real challenge.

Based on research performed in Egypt, India, Papua New Guinea and Uganda, as part of the GSMA mWomen Program, we know that on average, resource-poor women are 22% less likely to want a mobile phone because they would not know how to use it.  Yet we also know from other GSMA research that mobile phones afford women critical entrepreneurial opportunities, security, and a greater sense of family connection.

Mobile phone use in the developing world is exploding, yet women in these countries are at a high risk of being left behind, missing out on opportunities and services from education to healthcare.  Making the user experience easier would open up a multitude of possibilities.

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Women's Access to ICT: Strengthening Policy Frameworks to Address the Mobile Phone Gender Gap

by Christopher Burns, Economic Growth and Agricultural Development Advisor the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).
July 30, 2012 - 01:40 PM

When we think about mobile technology access to services, opportunities and products – particularly in remote, rural corners of the developing world – we occasionally miss the chance to emphasize the importance of tackling macro-level regulatory frameworks and policy-making functions.  Instead, we contemplate what it takes to provide women and men with the critical, micro-level social services and infrastructure they need to drive economic growth and strengthen family and community livelihoods.  We focus on reaching  “the last mile” and the components necessary for rural connectivity. 

But both ends of the spectrum must be targeted. 

Many assume if the mobile infrastructure has been built, connectivity exists and people can afford it, customers will sign-up and use the service.  Doing so will allow people the prospect of maximizing mobile technologies that can drive development change.  But this is often not true for many women in the developing world, where – although the infrastructure exists – they are 21 percent less likely to own mobile phones than their male counterparts.  There are greater factors at play -- primarily cost of mobile services, limited technical literacy and traditional attitudes around women owning productive assets.  These key barriers have shaped the objectives behind the GSMA mWomen Program.

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