GSMA mWomen Design Challenge launched to make smartphone use more intuitive for women in developing countries.
While mobile phone use amongst men in the developing world is currently booming, the same, however, cannot be said for women. GSMA research shows that as many as 300 million women in these parts of the world are denied access to a mobile, meaning that they are 21 per cent less like to own a mobile phone than men.
So, in order to redress the balance, Maura O’Neill, Chief Innovation Officer and Senior Counselor, US Agency for International Development; Dr. Nasser Marafih, CEO, Qtel Group; Jenny Da Rin, Assistant Director General, Australian Agency for International Development; and Chris Locke, Fund Managing Director, GSMA Development, have announced the launch of the GSMA mWomen Design Challenge: Redefining the User Experience at this year’s Social Good Summit in New York.
The aim of the GSMA mWomen Design Challenge is to work with the global digital design community in order to find new ways of making the smartphone user experience more intuitive. And for women in developing countries who may struggle with technical literacy due to a lack of hands-on experience with smartphones, this could be hugely beneficial.
Commenting on the significant disparity of smartphone use between men and women in the world’s low-to-middle income countries, Da Rin said: “In East Asia and the Pacific, there is a significant gap between women and men’s access to mobile phones. A mobile phone could change the life of a woman in a developing country in a quantum leap – immediate contact with a health centre that would otherwise be days of travel away; instant information about food prices and markets; mobile banking – all at the touch of a button.”
Among the key reasons behind such disparity in the world’s low-to-middle income countries are the overall cost of mobile ownership and a limited understanding of the potential of mobile devices, not to mention the various cultural barriers many women face in terms of gaining access to smartphones.
Dr. O’Neill also added: “If we are going to maximise the use of the mobile phone as a development tool, it must be designed for everyone in our community. This especially includes women who can't read or write. This Design Challenge affords us an excellent opportunity to apply innovative, scalable approaches that help to ensure women can take full advantage of the next mobile revolution via smartphones.”
One of the key considerations of the mWomen Design Challenge is the user experience of resource-poor women, with 22 per cent of women surveyed in Egypt, India, Papua New Guinea and Uganda who do not use mobile phones saying it is because they do not know how to use the phone. Therefore, mobile devices for these women may need to be designed with simpler interfaces that overcome reading and technical literacy barriers.
Dr. Nasser concluded: “We are proud to support the trailblazing GSMA mWomen Design Challenge. Across our markets, we are committed to enriching people’s lives and helping them progress through mobile technology. We are already implementing a variety of services that cater to women’s needs and improve the quality of life for themselves and their families, ranging from a dedicated offering - the Almas (‘Diamond’) line – for women in Iraq, to providing easy access to healthcare and financial management information in Indonesia. In supporting the Design Challenge, we hope to discover innovative design solutions for the user experience that can be shared and help to boost women’s access to mobile phones and usage in emerging markets.”