Uninor, a telecom operator in India has announced that it will be awarded a grant by the GSMA’s Mobile For Development Foundation, Inc. via its Connected Women programme, which provides seed funding to telecom operators for the design and launch of economically sustainable products and services, with the aim to bridge the mobile gender gap.
Under this first of its kind commercial initiative, the Project Sampark will aim to increase women’s access to the use of mobile phones and to promote solutions towards women’s barriers to mobile usage. GSMA has agreed to partner in this joint initiative to create awareness that the mobile is a tool of facilitation for women and their ownership of a mobile phone needs to be encouraged by the society.
Speaking about the initiative, Morten Karlsen Sorby, CEO, Uninor said, “Mobile technology has the ability to change the way we communicate, but its effects are not evenly distributed. Gender disparity is also echoed in mobile usage. This is a significant area of concern and what better way than using mobile connectivity to help deal with this developmental challenge. The launch of ‘Project Sampark’ is a first step in this direction and we are encouraged by the support from GSMA to endorse this initiative”.
“Uninor is committed to ensure the benefits of mobile services reach not just a few but to the many. This project will be truly path-breaking in its intent as it will be self sustainable, scalable and will continue to provide livelihood opportunity for women while building awareness on the benefits of mobile connectivity,” he added.
The total investment over the seven-month duration of the project is estimated at USD 183,654. Uninor will be contributing USD 113,654 while GSMA will be granting USD 70,000 to support the project.
Project Sampark is being launched as a pilot project to assess the barriers that women face in accessing mobile services such as affordability, mental block or social stigma attached with women to own a handset. The project will aim to enhance tele-density among women especially in the rural pockets of India.
“Uninor has always looked at avenues to reach out to similar sections of society across the socio-economic landscape and has tried its best to make a difference, big or small. Realizing the need to provide mobile benefits to women living in the rural areas, we have developed a product, which will be a value proposition for women subscribers who still haven’t experienced the mobile services. Uninor spurs the first ever product that will be made available to the target audience at the customer door step through women promoters who have been exclusively trained to sell this,” shared Rajeev Sethi, CMO, Uninor.
In the pilot phase, 87 villages of Aligarh district of Western UP, have been identified to pilot the project by testing business case of a commercial offering that helps reduce a multitude of barriers women face in accessing mobile services. For the roll out of the pilot, 40 women and four supervisors will participate including influential women in the region who are Anganwadi and ASHA supporters who can persuasively spread the message.
Uninor will also train women entrepreneurs to make a livelihood by offering them an opportunity to sell mobile prepaid connections and recharge vouchers.
“The GSMA’s Connected Women Programme aims to increase women’s access to and use of mobile phones and life-enhancing mobile services. Generally, in developing markets the decision makers for women are the male members in the family and the Connected Women programme works to minimize this gender gap between men and women in accessing mobiles technology. We are pleased to be working with Uninor in India and are excited to see the results of this project in the coming year,” said Zouhair Khaliq, Managing Director, GSMA Mobile For Development.