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Vodafone Report Released at Smashing Event in London

Andrew Dunnett (left) led the whole Connected Women project, which included my report, the workshops, the cool evening event, and a pledge to support the Malala Foundation.

Earlier this week, Vodafone released a report on the potential for mobile technology to advance the freedoms and well-being of women around the world.  I co-authored this report, called “Connected Women.”

To highlight and underscore the findings, Vodafone  hosted workshops Monday afternoon in London. Representatives of key stakeholder groups discussed the positive impact on health, education, work, safety, and community that may be had–if we can solve the problem of getting access for the many women around the world who are not able to have mobile devices.

While mobiles are becoming common among men in even the most remote places, women are lagging far behind.  It is important to close this gap because mobile can be used to offer important, even life-saving services for women.  Connectivity to the outside world is rapidly becoming a necessary link to information and citizenship–we must not let the women be excluded.

At the St Pancras Renaissance, Vodafone had mounted huge posters of the women featured in films about the impact of mobile service. These women were also present to tell their stories and answer questions in real time. Their words were incredibly moving, as well as being a dramatic wakeup call for anyone who might think gender inequality is not a problem.

After the workshops was a wonderful evening event, with the walls of the fabulous St. Pancras Renaissance hung with huge posters of women from around the world who have benefited from mobile services.  There was fabulous food and all kinds of interesting drinks–as well as a musical number from Matilda and an interview with Malala Yousafzai.  The crowd was very buzzy and I was delighted to see that many of my friends who have become active in the women’s economic empowerment movement were there.

The strategy of the report was to identify key challenges to women’s freedom and well-being that were common around the world and then look to see whether mobile technology could have an impact.  I sketched out for the team at the first meeting the areas I felt were most important and most difficult:  health access, staying in school, being safe from violence, social isolation (a problem that has uniquely female dimensions), and economic participation.  Using these broad outlines, a team from Accenture, led by Harry Morrison and Caroline Fricke, began mathematically modelling the potential global impact of increasing women’s access to mobile, from both a social and a business perspective.  Then Beckie Herbert, working with the Vodafone team, produced sketches of existing Vodafone programs around the world that could illustrate how mobile might be used to address some of the most intransigent problems (the section on text-to-treatment for obstetric fistula in sub-Saharan Africa is especially moving).

This fantastic assembly represents the graphic notes taken in each of the working sessions at the Vodafone multistakeholder brainstorming.

All the while this was going on, I assembled statistics and examples to show how women’s disadvantages in the domains of health, education, work, violence, and isolation create social problems for all of us, as well as inhibiting growth and prosperity every where.  There are lots of graphs and tables, as well as some personal reflections from my own fieldwork.

I am proud to have contributed to this report, along with brilliant folks from Accenture and Beckie Herbert.  Annette Fergusson, Joe Griffin, Lisa Felton, and Lucia Hayes were great colleagues from Vodafone who help us put the report together and then created this terrific event.

More later on why mobile is important. I just wanted to “get it out there” that this report, which contains a lot of data about challenges facing women around the world, is available.


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