February 2018 - Senit
How are smartphones changing women’s lives in developing countries?

How are smartphones changing women’s lives in developing countries?

In a 2015 article for The Economist titled ‘Imagine All The Empowered People’ Melinda Gates wrote:

‘if every woman in the world had a smartphone, it would transform their lives’.

Melinda gave examples of how smartphone ownership could transform women’s lives in areas such as healthcare:

‘When every woman has a smartphone, she will be able to get the right information, at the right time, in the right format.’


‘Women farmers will be able to watch videos of local farmers providing training based on local soil and weather conditions. […] Using their phones to connect to each other, women farmers can also organise effectively in co-operatives so they can express their demands as members of a powerful group rather than as isolated individuals.’

And banking:

‘Digital technology slashes transaction costs, though, which means that people can save and borrow money or purchase insurance securely and in small amounts through their phones’

The power of mobile technologies and smartphones to change women’s lives is widely acknowledged, but as Mobile For Development note, ‘In today’s increasingly connected world, women are being left behind.’

Although many people in low and middle income countries may already own smartphones, to really meet their potential large hurdles, such as a lack of universal network coverage, expensive data, a lack of women-centred apps, cultural factors and a lack of technical literacy, still remain. A 2015 report by GSMA reported that cost remains the greatest barrier to women’s phone ownership, with many women in developing countries having less financial independence than men.

See some of these economic possibilities and issues described in the MobileforDevelopment video below:

At the end of this month, on the 26th February 2018, Mobile World Congress is taking place and will explore how mobile tech is helping to achieve the UN #SDG’s and create a better future for all.

Ahead of this event, it seemed a good time to reflect on some of the exciting and creative mobile4development initiatives,  smartphone apps and projects aimed at empowering women that have happened encountered since both the 2015 GSMA report and Melinda Gates article mentioned above were written.

1. The ‘Uber-isation’ of domestic workers 

At least 54 million women globally are employed as domestic workers. ‘Uber’ style apps for finding domestic work give women access to more employment postings and flexibility in choosing working hours, however can have negative effects as it may fuel discrimination, job insecurity and makes women vulnerable to exploitation and trafficking. See more in this video by the ODI:

2. #mHealth

One area where mobile technology has had a lot of success is healthcare. GiftedMom is a mobile health solutions provider in Cameroon providing pregnant women and new mothers access to health information and strengthening linkages to antenatal care by pushing automated SMS text and voice reminders of checkups or vaccines, in addition to information about pregnancy, labor, breastfeeding and postnatal care. There is also a chat feature that women can use to connect with health professionals.

3. Making cities safer for women

SafetiPin is a tool that works to enable cities to become safer through collection of data through crowdsourcing and other methods. It began as one app for data collection and now has three apps including ‘SafetiPinTrack’, an app to help women stay safe through alerting their friends and family to their location and possible dangers. The app piloted across 10 cities in India and now has also been rolled out to Colombia, The Philippines, Kenya and Indonesia.

Each of the mobile tech initiatives above highlights the power of big data to empower women, and as we enter deeper into the age of big data, let’s hope we see more initiatives like them. What has become apparent is that following a surge in interest in mobile technologies for women in 2010 and 2015, over the last few years this interest seems to have fizzled out.

Given the rapid rate at which technological and big date advancements are happening. It seems that the power of smartphones to empower women can only continue to grow, so perhaps it’s time we focused more attention on mobile technology initiatives once again.

Do you know of any other great and exciting mobile4development projects aimed at empowering women? What are your thoughts on the projects above?

Comment below and let us know your thoughts and views!


Source DIGITAL (IN)EQUALITY by Anjuli Borgonha


Main Image by Freepik