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GSMA Research Highlights New Opportunities to Provide Mobile Services and Offerings to Women in Emerging Markets

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29 February 2012, Mobile World Congress, Barcelona

The GSMA today released research into the opportunities that mobiles provide to underserved women in emerging markets. The research, entitled ‘Portraits: A Glimpse into the Lives of Women at the Base of the Pyramid’, is the first to survey the wants, needs, aspirations and mobile uses of women living at the base of the pyramid (BoP), which are those living on less than US a day. The research was conducted in partnership with the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), with primary research undertaken by TNS. The research brings the voices of BoP women to life through eight fictional, composite ‘portraits’ of respondents, shown against a backdrop of the macro-level data from which the portraits were constructed.

“Our ultimate goal is that the research will lead to the private and public sectors working in partnership with BoP women on the development of mobile services that truly meet their needs,” said Trina DasGupta, GSMA mWomen Programme Director. “We believe any mobile product or service aiming to serve BoP women in a commercially successful manner must meet the actual lived needs of BoP women, as expressed in their own voices.”

“This research highlights the gaps in access to, and use of mobile phone technology. There is significant potential for using it to empower women and we are continuing to work with the GSMA mWomen Program and USAID to reduce the mobile phone gender gap,” said Melissa Stutsel, Director Gender Policy at AusAID.

"Critical to eliminating the mobile phone gender gap is discovering the profitable business models – based in part on this new research – for mobile operators for serving women who live on less than per day,” said Maura O’Neill, Senior Counselor and Chief Innovation Officer for USAID. “Partnering with GSMA and AusAID ensures that the program is deeply responsive to the hopes, dreams, and needs of poor women around the world.”

The GSMA mWomen Programme commissioned multi-country research and primary fieldwork was conducted with more than 2,500 BoP women in Egypt, India, Papua New Guinea and Uganda, with secondary research contributions from other parts of the developing world.

Top findings outlined in ‘Portraits’ include:


  • Targeting the whole family. Seventy-four per cent of married women who did not want a mobile phone said it was because their husbands would not allow it. Efforts to communicate the benefits of mobile should focus on the benefits for the whole family;
  • Eager entrepreneurs. Seventy-three per cent of participants expressed interest in entrepreneurship to help support their families, indicating that mobile solutions that help manage business or set up mobile retail enterprises could be particularly impactful;
  • The power gap. Thirty-eight per cent of BoP women live ‘off grid’, without easy access to an electricity source. Although access to electricity varies by market, low-cost, alternative mobile charging solutions will be key for many BoP women to fully realise the potential benefits of mobile phone ownership;
  • The SMS utility gap. Seventy-seven per cent of BoP women have made a mobile phone call, but only 37 per cent have sent an SMS, regardless of literacy levels. These women reported that they did not find the SMS services useful so products targeted at them should be of demonstrable practical value; and
  • The mHealth gap. Eighty-four per cent of women wanted better healthcare information; however only 39 per cent expressed a specific interest in receiving general healthcare information through their mobile phone. Therefore, mobile health offerings have to be closely geared towards women’s needs and communicated clearly to be fully utilised.
‘Portraits’ is a high-level summary of the key research findings, and the more detailed report, entitled ‘Striving and Surviving – Exploring the Lives of Women at the Base of the Pyramid’ will be launched to mark International Women’s Day on 8 March 2012 and will be available on www.mwomen.org.



Notes to Editors

Background to GSMA mWomen Programme

The GSMA mWomen Programme is an unprecedented global public-private partnership between the worldwide mobile industry and the international development community. The Programme aims to reduce the mobile phone gender gap by 50% by 2014, bringing mobile connectivity and services to more than 150 million women in emerging markets. This will be achieved through a combination of research, grants for mobile operators and NGOs, toolkits, and knowledge sharing through the mWomen online community, seminars, and the mWomen Working Group, which includes more than 30 members from the mobile industry.


Launched by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in October 2010, the GSMA mWomen Programme is funded by AusAID, USAID, GSMA and Visa Inc., and is supported by a global network of champions including Cherie Blair, Founder, Cherie Blair Foundation for Women; Helen Clark, Administrator, United Nations Development Programme; President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Liberia; H.E., Mrs. Sia Nyama Koroma, First Lady of the Republic of Sierra Leone; Hon. Kamla Persad-Bissessar, Prime Minister of the Republic of Trinidad & Tobago; Dr. Judith Rodin, President, Rockefeller Foundation; and Madam Tobeka Madiba Zuma, First Lady of South Africa. For more information, please visit www.mwomen.org.


About the GSMA

The GSMA represents the interests of mobile operators worldwide. Spanning more than 220 countries, the GSMA unites nearly 800 of the world’s mobile operators, as well as more than 200 companies in the broader mobile ecosystem, including handset makers, software companies, equipment providers, Internet companies, and media and entertainment organisations. The GSMA also produces industry-leading events such as the Mobile World Congress and Mobile Asia Expo.

For more information, please visit the GSMA corporate website at www.gsma.com or Mobile World Live, the online portal for the mobile communications industry, at www.mobileworldlive.com.

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