Building Apps for the Developing World That Women (and Men) Will Use

Posted by Ann Mei Chang
February 26, 2012
Woman Talks on Mobile Phone As She Prepares a Meal in India

We have seen evidence over and over again that investing in women and girls is one of the most direct and effective ways to produce economic and social progress. We have also seen how information and communication technologies (or ICT) have accelerated the pace of change by introducing efficiencies, opening new markets, and creating technology-related jobs. Now, imagine the tremendous possibilities that can arise from empowering women with ICT. The promise is real, though there are a number of challenges to navigate.

One of the most challenging issues is gender inequity in the access to technology, whether that be a mobile phone or Internet connectivity. Closing the gender gap presents an enormous opportunity for economic development. The GSMA mWomen Program, launched by Secretary Clinton in October 2010, identified that women are 21 percent less likely than men to own a mobile phone in developing countries. mWomen aims to halve that gap in the next three years. The Internet is also out of reach for many women, who typically have more limited incomes and are unable to afford service costs, which can be prohibitively expensive in many low-income countries. Certainly, without access to technology, women will not be able to take advantage of the many potential benefits technology can enable for their individual and family's livelihood, education, and well-being -- as a consequence, their contributions to economic and social progress will not be as significant.

Beyond access, women face additional hurdles in effectively leveraging ICT. Cultural norms or overt discrimination can make it uncomfortable for a woman to visit a cyber cafe or unfeasible for her to purchase her own phone. Marketing or distributing services to women can be difficult if they have limited ability to travel or to interact with male distributors. Lower literacy rates among women make it more challenging to access many SMS services, web applications, or phone apps, all of which typically require the ability to read and enter information. And, lack of technical literacy, along with the motivation or interest to develop it, can also discourage women from leveraging ICT solutions.

Last week, I spoke on this subject at the USAID Global Broadband and Innovations Tech Talk series on "How to Address Gender in ICT Projects." Watch the video here.



Badal K.
Minnesota, USA
February 27, 2012

Dr. Badal K. in Minnesota writes:


Let use secure technology for all purposes however; the global IT hackers are terrorizing our systems highly, and we must address secure and safety issues before implementing internet availability for all purposes.

Dr. Badal K.

Bosnia and Herzegovina
February 27, 2012

V. in Bosnia and Herzegovina writes:

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February 27, 2012

John D. in Nigeria writes:

Please, extend this program to the rural women of Mbaise, Imo State, Nigeria.

Thank you.

February 27, 2012

Anthony in Cambodia writes:

Not having a phone is not a barrier - in Cambodia WING provides a service that due to technology is in English rather than Khmer script, and only 3% of phones support Khmer script anyway. By addressing the key area of providing quality service at the merchant, along with good penetration into geographies, all services are accessible to anyone as the technology is in the hands of a competent agent.

The solution is never really the technology, it is good people.


Posicionamiento w.
February 28, 2012

P. writes:

Thanks for information.

Virginia, USA
February 28, 2012

Estee in Virginia writes:



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