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Could Cell Phones Benefit Women Entrepreneurs in Developing Countries?

| Friday September 30th, 2011 | 0 Comments

The ExxonMobil Foundation has a long history of investing in women worldwide, committing nearly $50 million to date toward programs that have benefitted thousands. The foundation recently announced a $1.5 million grant awarded to The Cherie Blair Foundation for Women for research into how mobile phone technology can aid women’s business efforts in developing countries.

Internet access is very scarce in many parts of the world, so many people rely on mobile phones instead. They have already proven to help economic development in developing countries, but currently there are 300 million more male subscribers worldwide, and a woman is 21 percent less likely to own a phone than a man in low- and middle-income countries.

Mobile phones increase communication between business owners in the same industry and coworkers, and provide access to vital information. Business owners can learn about weather reports, price dispersions, and other market influences and adjust immediately.

“We know that mobile technology has great potential for placing women in low-income countries on a higher economic trajectory,” said Cherie Blair, founder of the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women in a press release. “Mobile phone use doesn’t just help women earn more money, it can also bring great benefits to businesses and therefore to the wider economy as well.”

Mashable found a study that showed that mobile phone use “reduces waste, increased profits by 8%, and decreased consumer prices by 4% for the fishing industry in sub-Saharan Africa. ‘[With a cell phone], I know the price for US$2, rather than traveling [to the market], which costs US$20,’ said one grain trader in Zinder, Nigeria to researcher Jenny Aker.”

The ExxonMobil/Cherie Blair study will be conducted in Nigeria, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Indonesia. Its goals are to determine which mobile services will best help women grow their businesses and what obstacles there are to accessing these services.

“Studies like this will help us understand how technology can best support women in the developing world,” said Suzanne M. McCarron, president of the ExxonMobil Foundation. “Success of women entrepreneurs is vital to building strong communities. Expanding the use of mobile technology for women will help raise living standards, leading to more prosperity for them, their families and their countries.”
 
“Our research shows that technology can be transformative for women, if we engage them in the process,” said Sarah Degnan Kambou, president of the International Center for Research on Women.  “This partnership does that and will help take women entrepreneurs further, faster, as a result.”

The grant was the topic of a session at the 2011 Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting on September 20. In the past six years, ExxonMobil and the ExxonMobil Foundation have invested more than $47 million to promote the economic advancement of women in such initiatives as:

  • Supplying new irrigation technologies to women farmers in Benin to enable them to farm throughout the country’s six-month dry season.
  • Training women in Ghana to use agricultural technologies to increase crop yields.
  • Helping Ugandan women access solar energy for their communities while growing their own businesses.
  • Offering business training, mentoring support and networking opportunities to more than 11,000 women in the developing world.
  • Providing Indonesian women access to solar lanterns which enable them to be more productive after sundown.

The ExxonMobil Foundation not only supports influential programs, but collaborates with leading advocates and academics to raise awareness about the important role that women play in building strong communities and economies.

image: Erik Hersman


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