Connectivity: How Mobile Phones, Computers and the Internet Can Catalyze Women's Entrepreneurship
"The right technology in the hands of a woman entrepreneur yields economic and social benefits for not just her, but her family, community and country."
With a research focus on India, this study is aimed to increase understanding on how information and communication technologies (ICTs) are changing opportunities for economically poor and low-income women by helping fostering women’s entrepreneurship. The primary research centred on in-depth studies of four initiatives that illustrate how mobile phones, the internet, and computers can increase women’s ability to generate income. The study is presented by the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) and the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women.
From the Executive summary: "ICTs... can catalyze women’s economic advancement by promoting entrepreneurial activity, improving business practices, and breaking traditional gender barriers at home and in the marketplace. But the private sector is only just beginning to see women as consumers; it has not yet realized the potential women entrepreneurs hold as a vibrant business market.... Our research focused on India... a dynamic setting for three important trends: a rapidly expanding ICT sector, an increased role for women in the marketplace, and an emerging economic and policy environment poised for growth and social inclusion. The confluence of these trends is sparking a range of initiatives that use ICTs to engage women in business."
Case studies include:
- AISECT - franchised "IT education centers" for delivering computer-based ICT education and training in urban environments and Common Service Centers (CSCs), kiosks for rural centres that provide access to e-governance and e-business services. AISECT supports its women entrepreneurs by negotiating rates for banking, telecom, and insurance services for their start-ups and ensuring quality control for the education services.
- Hand in Hand (HiH)-Uninor Partnership - opportunities for women from lower income families to launch, operate, and manage ICT-based businesses (Citizens’ Center Enterprises -CCEs) that sell products and services to customers through computers, the internet, and mobile phones. HiH gives credit and training and creates partnerships that generate revenue for the CCEs, including tying in bank services, certification for computer classes, and, from Uninor, initial internet access, product training, mobile handsets and SIM (subscriber identity module) cards, and ICT awareness outreach to other community members.
- Mann Deshi Mahila - a cooperative bank providing access to financial services and products for women in their homes, building women’s ICT literacy and business acumen through a business school for rural women, and enabling women to purchase mobile phones, included on them: the mobile-based applications to address specific needs of women entrepreneurs, such as an e-card microchip to carry their banking information. There is also, in the exploration stage, an image-based mobile system combined with SMS text message correspondence for business and agricultural advice and vocational training.
- Sasken VyapaarSEWA - an interactive voice response mobile application that allows self-help groups and their members to use mobile phone image and voice-activated systems in various local languages to access other self-help groups, web portals, and marketing agencies to sell their products more efficiently and expand their businesses.
Among the documents recommendations for government and the private sector are the following for development organisations:
- "Support data collection and analysis of women’s business intersection with ICTs, including the potential of existing women’s collectives for ICT and business growth.
- Package and translate expertise on women for government and private-sector partners.
- Foster coordination between multiple stakeholders—especially ICT companies, non-profits working on women’s economic opportunities, academia, and government.
- Provide incentives and forums for collaboration on technology innovation that create woman-relevant content.
- Work with governments on providing timely regulatory frameworks.
- Use technology as tools for program development around entrepreneurship."
MobileActive.org website, accessed May 8 2012.