100 Million Women In Developing Countries To Receive Free Cell Phones

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Photo Credit: Getty Images via Huffington Post

At the Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting closing plenary, Tata Communications and MasterCard announced a CGI Commitment to Action to financially empower 25,000 women in the developing world, part of a larger vision to ultimately bring 100 million women in developing countries like India, Indonesia and Guatemala, free cell phones.

Giving a woman in a developing country access to such technology plays a key role in her educational development, financial independence and overall well-being – worldwide, 300 million fewer women than men own a cell phone, a disparity that deprives women of educational, health and financial opportunities.

In Haiti, for example, underserved women often don’t have access to bank accounts, leaving them particularly vulnerable, as Melinda Gates noted in an op-ed for The New York Times recently.

Women there typically keep their money hidden in pots and fields and are constantly worried about it being stolen. Getting a loan in an emergency situation is often impossible for them. Digital financing, however, could change that. Such services could connect 2 billion people to their first bank accounts, Gates said.

Mobile technology also plays an important role in bringing education to people in need who wouldn’t otherwise have access to reading material. The technology has also proven to serve as a lifesaving resource for women in developing countries.

Pregnant women and new mothers who live in rural areas often face greater health risks because they lack access to medical clinics, and to ensure that pregnant women and new mothers are have the information they need to protect themselves and their babies, a number of groups have developed mobile platforms that can reach women everywhere and save as many as 800 women a day who die from preventable conditions, according to a 2013 Reuters report.

One such group is Zero Mothers Die, a mobile program that provides critical maternal, newborn and child health information.

“Two billion adults globally, the majority of them women, still don’t have a safe and easy way to receive, store and use their money,” said Walt Macnee, vice chairman of MasterCard. “We see an opportunity and responsibility to empower women with access to and control over their finances through digital financial tools. By financially including women around the globe, we take an important step towards poverty alleviation, equality and economic prosperity.”