Last month, I had the opportunity to attend the Vodafone Foundation and London Business School’s Mobile for Good Summit in London, which focused on the transformative power of mobile technology in communities around the globe. For me, the event solidified the notion that mobile is more than an enabler; it is a multiplier and game changer that cuts across all sectors, including healthcare, education, and entrepreneurship.
We have witnessed how mobile technology revolutionizes life in remote communities, but it is especially moving to see the impact it has in transforming the lives of women. For this reason, I was pleased to hear Cherie Blair, Founder of the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women, speak about what is being referred to as “The Third Billion.” The name refers to the nearly three billion women around the world that are expected to enter the global economy during the coming decade. While governments and business leaders have acknowledged and anticipated the impact of the booming, billion-plus populations of India and China, many have failed to acknowledge how women will affect global business in the coming years. An accompanying report on “The Third Billion” by Booz & Company suggests that “raising female employment to male levels could have a direct impact on GDP of five percent in the United States, nine percent in Japan, 12 percent in the United Arab Emirates, and 34 percent in Egypt.”
When it comes to building connections and providing opportunity, mobile technology offers great hope, because the proliferation of mobile around the world means that it is the most common way that people will access information—it is a global tool—a link to the chance for a better life.
Unfortunately, a woman is still 21 percent less likely to own a mobile phone than a man. While it is promising that an additional billion women are expected to enter the workforce in the next decade, we need to recognize the extent to which the gender gap exists today and continue to work to close it.
The Cherie Blair Foundation for Women plays an integral role in this mission by engaging women and providing them with the skills and tools they need to become business owners and to develop a stronger voice in their communities. At Qualcomm, we’ve had the opportunity to partner with the Cherie Blair Foundation and the Foundation for Women’s Education and Vocational Training on a Wireless Reach initiative focused on mentoring women in business in Malaysia. Through this collaboration, women entrepreneurs mainly from Selangor, Kedah and Perlis, Malaysia were given 3G-enabled smartphones and laptops to connect and engage with a community of skilled business professionals and entrepreneurs from around the world.
While it is important to convene organizations focused on bringing the benefits of mobile to remote communities, it is my hope that we can begin to bring the women and entrepreneurs that have benefitted from these projects to the forefront of the discussion. By doing so, we can better demonstrate the tangible impact of mobile technology and help inspire even more work in this important area.
To learn more about our efforts to empower communities with mobile technology, please visit the Wireless Reach section of our website.