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Mobile Needs of Women Living on $2 per Day

Mobile industry association GSMA has released research into the opportunities that mobiles provide to underserved women in emerging markets.

The research, entitled ‘Portraits: A Glimpse into the Lives of Women at the Base of the Pyramid’, is the first to survey the wants, needs, aspirations and mobile uses of women living at the base of the pyramid (BoP), which are those living on less than US$2 a day.

The research was conducted in partnership with the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), with primary research undertaken by TNS.

[ Also Read: What Moms Do with Their Mobiles ]

The research brings the voices of BoP women to life through eight fictional, composite ‘portraits’ of respondents, shown against a backdrop of the macro-level data from which the portraits were constructed.

“Our ultimate goal is that the research will lead to the private and public sectors working in partnership with BoP women on the development of mobile services that truly meet their needs,” said Trina DasGupta, GSMA mWomen programme director.

“We believe any mobile product or service aiming to serve BoP women in a commercially successful manner must meet the actual lived needs of BoP women, as expressed in their own voices.”

[ Also Read: Are Women Shyer on Social Media? ]

The GSMA mWomen Programme commissioned multi-country research and primary fieldwork was conducted with more than 2,500 BoP women in Egypt, India, Papua New Guinea and Uganda, with secondary research contributions from other parts of the developing world.

Released Wednesday, Feb. 29, the top findings outlined in ‘Portraits’ include:

Targeting the whole family. Seventy-four per cent of married women who did not want a mobile phone said it was because their husbands would not allow it. Efforts to communicate the benefits of mobile should focus on the benefits for the whole family;

Eager entrepreneurs. Seventy-three per cent of participants expressed interest in entrepreneurship to help support their families, indicating that mobile solutions that help manage business or set up mobile retail enterprises could be particularly impactful;

The power gap. Thirty-eight per cent of BoP women live ‘off grid’, without easy access to an electricity source. Although access to electricity varies by market, low-cost, alternative mobile charging solutions will be key for many BoP women to fully realise the potential benefits of mobile phone ownership;

The SMS utility gap. Seventy-seven per cent of BoP women have made a mobile phone call, but only 37 per cent have sent an SMS, regardless of literacy levels. These women reported that they did not find the SMS services useful so products targeted at them should be of demonstrable practical value; and

The mHealth gap. Eighty-four per cent of women wanted better healthcare information; however only 39 per cent expressed a specific interest in receiving general healthcare information through their mobile phone. Therefore, mobile health offerings have to be closely geared towards women’s needs and communicated clearly to be fully utilised.

‘Portraits’ is a high-level summary of the key research findings, and the more detailed report, entitled ‘Striving and Surviving – Exploring the Lives of Women at the Base of the Pyramid’ will be launched to mark International Women’s Day on March 8, 2012 and will be available on

Photo courtesy: GSMA mWomen

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