This International Women’s Day, let’s use technology to advance #balanceforbetter

Posted on 03/07/2019

Women learning about Financial Literacy

Despite the buzz of excitement about the rapid pace of change due to new technologies, women are too often left behind, especially in lower-income countries. The gaps are clear: a 10 percent gender gap in mobile phone ownership (unchanged over the past five years), and a 23 percent gap for mobile internet usage. Gaps like these prevent women from accessing financial services and information crucial to their livelihoods and health.

We’re working with partners to tackle these challenges so that data and technology can fully support women’s economic empowerment. That was the topic of a Twitter Chat recently cohosted by Grameen Foundation, Accenture and CISCO. Dozens of people around the globe participated, and the Chat garnered more than 1.4 million impressions. Here we share the insights from that chat.

Tackling cultural gender norms: The Global Digital Gender Gap is driven in part by engrained cultural and social expectations of women. These range from a woman’s lack of mobility (ability to leave her home or community without permission) to a lack of control over household finances. Technology fixes can’t change the culture, but they can help shift the conversation and intentionally include women.

@WFIChampions Technology is just a vehicle. If we don’t understand the gender relations or power dynamics in a community when designing and launching tech products and services, the utility will likely be very limited #HerBreakthrough

@LHendricksGF Consider decision making dynamics within households. Gender dialogues like those we use in Burkina Faso can help facilitate intra-household discussions. #HerBreakthrough @GrameenFdn

@M_E_Lead_Learn Work with families so that women aren't punished, but encouraged to use technology--this is a factor I see repeated across contexts and across technologies. Helping families realize there are positive gains in group well-being when women can adopt and use technologies is a start.

Designing tech with women in mind: Ensuring women have a positive experience when using technology is critical to their becoming regular users. This happens when we design tech with women in mind.

@CiscoCSR Empathy is the centerpiece of human-centered design thinking, which means understanding who clients are, how they do things and why, their priorities, as well as their needs. #HerBreakthrough ^CA

What the development community calls user-centered design is what the private sector calls good client research. But it’s surprising how much of tech design is gender blind. Actually, talking to women and prototyping with them helps to understand how a product may work successfully.

@grp_resilience By ensuring that interventions are designed alongside women every step of the way and are responsive to issues. We partner w/@mahilahsg who use integrated voice response mobile apps & local radio to overcome the digital #gender divide in urban #Bangladesh, #Nepal and #India

Building networks of female agents: In addition, one of the most effective ways to increase women’s access to technology solutions and address cultural issues and is by building networks of female agents. For many reasons, female financial service agents tend to attract more female customers than do men agents.

@CiscoCSR For example, female agents may have more in-depth, frequent, and personal communication with their beneficiaries. This will impact how products and services are designed and delivered. #HerBreakthrough ^CA

@mSTAR_Project In Bangladesh, women fear that male #mobilemoney agents will use their numbers to call & harass them. Understanding gender relations is key to creating good & safe products: goo.gl/Yib6JG

Female agents spend more time with women clients gaining their trust and explaining their products. When trust and familiarity is gained, you’re more likely to build a pipeline of long-term, repeat customers and to cross-sell products and services to them.

Training in digital and financial literacy: For many poor women who have been technologically excluded, the first steps to regular usage involve training in digital and financial literacy.

@sonali2197 Technology Education has to start early to boost confidence @accenturelabs works with @KIPP and @GWC to provide tech education for girls in middle and high schools so that they become tech literate very early on, easy to adapt as they grow in their communities #HerBreakthrough

The Grameen Mitra program in Nagpur, India, trains women to become digital financial services trainers for other women in their community. The training makes use of digital tools, including Augmented Reality and Artificial Intelligence apps developed through a collaboration between @AccentureLabs and @GrameenFdn. The Mitra’s themselves become a one-stop-shop. Besides offering financial literacy training, their digital platform connects clients with financial products and services right from their doorstep.

@prateepchak This can be done by using women mentors. @GrameenInd works with women #grameenmitras who act as trainers and offer a host of value added services to young women to increase adoption and usage #HerBreakthrough

Using data to support women: Once women start to utilize digital services, they start to build a data trail. This can create an economic identity that she can use to access resources. For many women in rural communities, this new digital economic identity may be their only way to interact with formal markets and carry out financial transactions.

@BobbiGray1 I appreciate what @GSMAm4d has been doing on #digitalidentity. Women are excluded from many services by the simple fact they have no proof of identity. #Blockchain also has a lot of potential for establishing and building economic identities for #women #HerBreakthrough

The more data women build-out, the more nonprofits, service providers and tech developers can use that data to understand her needs, and to develop products and services tailored for her. But despite the proliferation of ways and means to collect data, data related to gender is still missing.

Programs need to be intentional in collecting data relevant to women. Grameen Foundation’s SAT4Farming project in Ghana is helping farmers develop individualized farm plans using data gathered via digital technology. With clear data on women’s farming activities, providers can develop financial packages, farm inputs services and more, all designed around a women’s specific farming activities.

@dakporticpower Greater spotlight on women farmers. Women are often invisible labor on farms. Tools like SAT4Farming in Ghana can enable us to bring them out of the shadows, identify their needs and provide resources to improve their farms.

Breakthroughs ahead: The Twitter Chat noted major breakthroughs in the use of technology for women’s economic empowerment in 2018, and looked ahead at technologies poised to play an even bigger role in 2019.

@shalabhksingh We need to continue to build intelligence at the edge. The Grameen Guru smartphone app is a good example. It uses chatbot and #AR technology to help those who can’t read or write. @accenturelabs #HerBreakthrough

@poddersanjay #AI, #XR, speech recognition and computer vision technologies. These enabled applications that helped boost financial education and inclusion for low-income women. youtu.be/V7sbTDL8-h8 @accenturelabs #HerBreakthrough

From AI to improve learning to satellite-based precision farming, technology is offering new solutions to age-old problems. In order for those solutions to benefit everyone, they must be used by everyone, and provide:

@katiehighet Access to the knowledge and resources that will enable her to live a healthy economic life of her choice. #HerBreakthrough


Lauren Hendricks is Executive Vice President, Grameen Foundation; Sanjay Podder is Managing Director, Accenture Labs; Charu Adesnik is Deputy Director, Cisco Foundation.

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