SMEs across the world have had to rapidly digitalize to survive the impact of COVID-19. In low and middle-income countries, millions of SMEs are turning to mobile technology to help them adapt. Mobile handsets are powering entire businesses like never before, connecting entrepreneurs to customers, finance, information, skills training, networks and other vital services.
But not everyone is able to take up these opportunities. Not only have women’s businesses being hit hardest by the pandemic, women in low and middle-income countries are far less likely than men to have access to both mobile and to essential business information, networks, services and skills training. This ‘double barrier’ is preventing many women entrepreneurs in low and middle-income countries from being able to adapt their businesses to successfully navigate the emerging challenges the global pandemic is bringing and to adapt to future disruptions. This spells severe impacts for families, communities, industries and economies across the globe.
With COVID-19 accelerating the drive towards digital and with the world preparing for 5G, women entrepreneurs in low and middle-income countries must be supported now through initiatives to close the gender gap in mobile access and break the gendered barriers to business skills training and services. Without this, they risk being left behind not only as businesspeople, but also as customers, service users and contributors to supply chains and economies, posing a real missed opportunity for the mobile technology sector in particular.
To explore these intersecting issues, the barriers, the solutions mobile technology companies can provide and the huge potential this holds, Cherie Blair Foundation for Women and CW (Cambridge Wireless), supported by Synergy Solutions, bring together Claire Sibthorpe, Head of Connected Women at GSMA; Helen McEachern, CEO at Cherie Blair Foundation for Women and Sylvia Mulinge, Chief Customer Officer at Safaricom PLC to discuss:
- What are the potential benefits that closing the intersecting gender gaps in access to mobile and access to business skills brings to the mobile industry?
- How can business and civil society collaborate to break down the barriers to gender-equitable mobile and skills access and promote women entrepreneurs’ access to mobile learning?
- What do women entrepreneurs in low and middle-income countries want and need from the mobile tech sector in order to access their products and services?
- How can we support the investment in and development of more free and accessible online learning for women entrepreneurs, helping to mitigate the impacts of COVID and ready them for an increasingly digital economy?
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