Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Former British First Lady Cherie Blair delivered remarks today on international support for increasing women's access to mobile technology. The event launched the GSMA mWomen Program, a project of the GSMA Development Fund and the Cherie Blair Foundation, to promote mobile technologies as tools for women's empowerment and international development.
Secretary Clinton said, "Now, we know that it goes without saying, it is so obvious, that mobile technology has reshaped the way that people work, learn, and communicate. And here at the State Department, it has also changed how we pursue our twin missions of diplomacy and development. We are using cell phones and mobile applications to help us coordinate disaster relief, track the results of our global health programs, engage directly with people whose contact with us would otherwise be only second- or third-hand, and advance our work around the world in dozens of other ways. And we know we are just scratching the surface.
"But as excited as we are by how mobile technology can help us improve our work, we're even more excited about how it can help you and millions of others around the world improve what you do and empower more people to become full participants in their own societies. Mobile technology can accelerate economic development. With a cell phone, a farmer in Sub-Saharan Africa can learn how to protect her crops from pests that would otherwise destroy a harvest. An entrepreneur in Latin America can more easily obtain a business license or communicate with a mentor or a customer. A woman in Asia can use her mobile banking to control her family finances or budget for school fees or save for a new house.
"And we also know that mobile technology can improve governance and strengthen democratic institutions. For example, in the recent voting on a constitution in Kenya, where previous elections had led to violence, peace was maintained, thanks in part to technology that tallied ballots in real-time. Mobile technology fosters health and education, especially in places where systems do not yet exist. With cell phones, expectant mothers who live nowhere near a clinic can still receive prenatal health tips. Students whose teachers rarely show up at school can still move ahead with their lessons.
"...And we are developing an innovative program that addresses the particular needs of women. For example, we are in the early stages of developing an idea we are calling Mobile Justice to help women in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where sexual violence against women occurs at a horrific rate. In many parts of that country the police and court systems have disintegrated, so women who are attacked have no way to get justice. They can't even realistically travel to the urban centers where courts have been reestablished. But these cell phones give women the ability to collect evidence and record and transmit their testimony, so women in rural areas may be able to bring justice to them.
"Or to give another example, we recently held a contest called Apps 4 Africa to reward local mobile developers in four African countries whose apps are helping to advance prosperity and stability in ingenious ways. One of the winners is a program called Mamakiba, a budgeting app that helps low-income pregnant women save and prepay for prenatal care and the costs of delivery. By helping women manage the cost of this care, we can increase the chance that they will receive care and protect both their health and the health of newborns.
"...So I want to applaud the mWomen initiative for recognizing the importance of this cross-cutting issue and to convey the strong support of the State Department and USAID as you pursue your goal of reducing by 50 percent the gender gap in the next three years. Several mobile networks in developing countries, including Vodaphone, Telefonica, Roshan, and Mobitel, have pledged significant support for increasing women's access, for example, by developing apps designed for women and training programs as well. We cannot do this without private sector leadership, and we applaud all of the companies that have already stepped forward and ask others to join us in this effort. We're working with governments and international organizations. My friend, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf from Liberia and a global champion for mWomen, has sent her minister of Gender Equality and Development, Minister Gayflor, to join us here today to discuss how Liberia and the United States can work together. USAID has committed to partner with GSMA and the Gates Foundation through existing mobile initiatives on health, education, and agriculture. And additionally, the United States will continue to support civil society organizations that advocate for women's rights to undo constrictions on their ability to use technology freely. We really are believers in the freedom to connect. So today's launch of the mWomen Initiative is another big step on the road to gender equality, the freedom to connect, and all the opportunities that flow from it."