Leadership in the Digital Economy - 20 MPs from around the world hit DC and Silicon Valley

Culture and Cost, Safety and Services: Research on Mobile Phones and Afghan Women

Photo Credit: AFP

It is no secret that the number of people using mobile phones has exploded in the last ten years. In 2002, for example, there were 49 million mobile phones in Africa; today there are more than 700 million. Mobile technology has revolutionized the way people communicate and connect to social, economic and political resources. And while there is still a considerable gender gap with regard to mobile phone ownership and usage throughout the developing world, more and more women are now using mobile phones to access social services and new economic opportunities. 

Recently, USAID released a report that supports the fact that even in hard-to reach places with strict societal norms for women, mobile phones have an impact. The Afghan Women’s Capacity Building Organization conducted a survey of 2,000 women from five major provinces to determine their access to mobile technology in Afghanistan. In the report, USAID presented some key positive findings:

  • As of late 2012, 80% of Afghan women surveyed have regular or occasional access to mobile phones.

  • Access to mobile phones is growing quickly, especially among young women.

  • 44% of women who live outside of urban areas own their own phones; 39% have access to a family member’s phone.

  • Mobile phones are becoming gateways to social and commercial services, including those related to health and education.

  • A majority of women surveyed believe that “connectivity enhances Afghan women’s lives, making them feel safer, better equipped to cope with emergencies, more independent, and more able to access the family members and friends who comprise their networks.”

  • A majority of women surveyed believe that mobile phones are essential tools.

  • Fear of technology is not a barrier.


Closing the Technology Gender Gap

The covers of the two reports

Two recent reports emphasize the importance of the ICT gender gap in developing countries. These in-depth analyses provide statistics, case studies, and conclusions that clearly demonstrate why closing that gap is so essential to development and to increasing women's political participation.  

Last year, the GSMA (the association of GSM mobile operators) and the Cherie Blaire Foundation produced a report on women and mobile technology. Intel, in coordination with Dalberg and GlobeScan, released a report yesterday that focuses on Internet access in developing countries. Key takeaways from each publication: 

Women & Mobile: A Global Opportunity A study on the mobile phone gender gap in low and middle-income countries

  • Closing the mobile gap for women represents a $13 billion dollar opportunity: With the gender gap representing over 300 million women, providing service represents not only an important step for human rights, but a monetary incentive to the private sector as well.
  • The top three benefits of cell phone ownership for women: feeling safer (93%), feeling more connected with friends and family (93%) and feeling more independent (85%)
  • The top five factors predicting ownership of mobile phone: Household income, urban/rural location, age, occupation, and education level.
  • Barriers preventing ownership of mobile phones: cost of handsets, no need to have one as everyone is local, and use of landline instead of mobile.
  • The report also includes: case studies of projects in Pakistan promoting female literacy, culturally appropriate advertising for women in Afghanistan, distance learning in Mexico, and providing input for women in Kosovo's constitution

Download the report here. 

Women and the Web: Bridging the Internet gap and creating new global opportunities in low and middle-income countries

  • Closing the Internet gap for women represents 50 to 70 billion dollars: Similar to mobiles, increasing the number of women online also represents a potential increase in GDP of $13 to 18 billion across 144 developing countries.
  • Internet penetration varies greatly among continents: while North America experiences 79%, the Middle East has 40%, Asia has 28%, and Africa lags behind at 16% internet penetration.
  • Access to the Internet provides both positive individual and ecosystem outcomes: including increased confidence and self worth, more opporutnities for education or employment, and access to networks, as well as economic development through GDP growth, gender equality through the leveling of opportunity, and diversification of markets.
  • Major individual inhibitors to Internet access: awareness of the content and use of information on the Internet, ability to navigate and consume web content, and an environment lacking in encouragement of use.
  • The largest ecosystem inhibitors to Internet access: network infrastructure, economic viability of Internet connection options, policies encouraging women to use the Internet, 

Lessons from #PDF12: leaving the republic of Nerdistan

What my after-school coordinator tweets might have looked like.

I spent more time tweeting during my 48 hours at PDF12 than I had in the past six months. This is not an exaggeration; I ran the numbers. (And you can too, if you follow me, @hillaryeason. Ahem.) Part of this, of course, was due to the fact that I was at a conference that was About Technology; not only was this kind of tech widely used, it also acted as a signaling mechanism, establishing the Tweeter as someone who was engaged and tech-savvy. In that respect, at least, the demands of this job differ substantially from my last gig.

But as I was thinking about the ways in which I, as an NDI employee, actually use Twitter, I realized that I certainly could have used this kind of technology the last time I worked in this city. I ran an after-school program in a high-crime, low-income neighborhood that served 200 kids and employed 20 staff. I had next to no resources, was constantly trying to communicate information to overworked teachers who were never in the same place at the same time, and had to somehow funnel info on all of these challenges to my bosses at the public school district in order to make any kind of change. Isn't that what Twitter is for? READ MORE »

This One's For The Ladies

Ms. Pac Man, the most famous lady in tech?

Happy International Women’s Week!

NDI’s work strives to incorporate women’s meaningful participation in democracy and governance worldwide. Our Women’s Political Participation team is dedicated to mainstreaming women’s perspectives in all programs, and within the Institute there is a significant representation of women at senior positions both in DC and the field.

Of our full-time team members, I’m the only female. But for those keeping score, we're 6 for 6 in hiring women to work on our team. Like my predecessor Katherine Maher, my gender isn’t in the forefront of my brain. And while it’s still true that there are proportionally less women with technical degrees and represented in the technology workforce, the number of women in the ICT4D, net freedom, and democracy and technology space is vastly growing. There’s no shortage of “Top 10 Awesome Women in Tech for Development” or “The 30 Women in Digital Activism You Should Follow on Twitter Right Now”-type lists, which leaves some big shoes to fill, whether they be flats or heels.

But as women are becoming the majority users on social networking sites and nearing the number of male internet users worldwide, there is still much work to be done to incorporate gender considerations in ICT4D interventions. READ MORE »

Tweeting International Women's Day

In celebration of International Women's Day, the Women's Political Participation program here at NDI hosted a tweetchat featuring the State Department (@S_GWI), Secretary Madeleine Albright, and iKNOW Politics (@iKNOW_Politics). The discussion included opportunities and challenges to women's roles in politics. This event is an innovative approach to provide a space for stakeholders in women's empowerment to engage with thought leaders and policy makers across countries. Below is our Storify for the event: READ MORE »

NDI Democracy Dinner Highlights

The NDI Tech team watched Secretary Clinton's keynote at last night's Democracy Dinner with great interest and not a little institutional pride. Among other highlights, we're still blushing to hear that "freedom knows no better champion" than NDI and our sibling institutions under the National Endowment for Democracy. I've collected the best of the coverage for our loyal readers: READ MORE »

Technology and the Other 50%: Women and ICT

A pro-democracy protester in Tahrir Square, Cairo, carries her video camera and speaks on her mobile phone.

Today is the 100th anniversary of International Women's Day!

NDI demonstrates its committment to supporting women in democracy on a daily basis. Roughly 75% of NDI programs have dedicated components on women's political participation. Within NDI, women are represented at the top levels of the organization in DC and in the field, including on a team focusing on mainstreaming women's programming in all of NDI's work.

And hey - there's me! I'm the female on the NDItech team.  I don't spend a lot of time thinking about my gender at work; I'm an XX who works with some pretty great XYs, and I'm glad for that. But it is true that I'm outnumbered, three to one - and that women in technology are vastly underrepresented in general. Women make up only about a quarter of the recipients of Computer Science degrees, and are present in the technology workforce in roughly equal proportions. A quick stroll around the corporate campuses of tech giants in Silicon Valley bears out the numbers: just not a lot of ladies out there. READ MORE »

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