Mobile Industry Awards U.S. Foreign Aid Program for Worldwide Women’s Advancement

March 18, 2013 in Women

Women with Mobile Phones

Source: GSMA.

In Barcelona, the Global System for Mobile Communications Association ─ a powerful trade association uniting almost 800 mobile operators worldwide and hundreds of companies in related industries  ─ awarded its “Best Government Policy for Mobile Development” award to the United States Agency for International Development on February 26. The United States Agency for International Development  ─ the primary agency responsible for U.S. foreign aid and international development programs ─received an award at GSMA’s Mobile World Congress 2013 for its work to increase the use of mobile services to empower women. GSMA is the mobile industry’s largest trade association and its annual event attracts over 70,000 people.

Priya Jaisinghani, Director of Mobile Services in USAID’s Office of Innovation and Development Alliances, accepted the award on the agency’s behalf.  USAID is the first bilateral donor agency to establish a dedicated mobile solutions team focused on the widespread use of mobile technology to address core economic and gender issues.

According to GSMA, resource-poor women in the developing world often, because of lack of opportunity, struggle with technical literacy. There is already a mobile phone gender gap in the developing world, where phones with basic voice and SMS capabilities are currently the norm. Smartphones are forecast to proliferate in these markets over the next few years. The GSMA mWomen Design Challenge, sponsored by Qtel Group, in partnership with USAID and AusAID, aims to redefine the smartphone user experience for resource-poor women in the developing world. The objective of this challenge is to address some of the usage barriers for women now, to prevent them falling further behind in the future.

To include those who do not have access to or use banks, USAID has implemented a series of mobile money initiatives and partnerships, including the Better Than Cash Alliance and a focus on electronic payments as part of its reform agenda, USAID Forward.  To close the mobile phone gender gap, USAID has strengthened its support to the GSMA mWomen Program to provide access to mobile services that enhance the livelihoods of women and their families.  Further, USAID is working to provide timely health messages to expectant and new mothers through the Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action.

BabyCenter, the world’s principal online destination for pregnancy and parenting information resources and networking, collaborates with USAID and Johnson & Johnson on the MAMA project. MAMA serves to provide funding, resources, and expertise to organizations creating mobile phone health applications in low-resource settings around the world. BabyCenter has established itself as the virtual community leader for worldwide research on all things maternal. Mobile communications are a critical element in its programs as well as in other elements of USAID’s outreach to disadvantaged populations and economic strata.

USAID Chief Innovation Officer Dr. Maura O’Neill said, “We are very careful within the development community to not talk about silver bullets for meeting our development objectives.  But the mobile phone is pretty darn close.  It is the game changer in development. We are very excited about this award and the momentum it provides USAID and others who care deeply about giving every person in the world an opportunity to create a free and prosperous life.”