In India, only 29 per cent of women are economically active compared with over 80 per cent of men. Now, women retailers in rural Gujarat are using their mobile to place orders and manage their businesses. The Vodafone Connected Women Report 2014, released on Thursday, has found that providing women with greater access to mobile phones and services could lead to a $29 billion increase in annual global productivity from 2020, as a result of greater female participation in the workforce and savings in public services.
The report, produced by Vodafone Group, supported by the Vodafone Foundation and in collaboration with Oxford University’s Said Business School and Accenture Sustainability Services, was released by Cherie Blair, Founder, Cherie Blair Foundation for Women at an event held in New Delhi.
Speaking about Vodafone’s commitment toward leveraging the inherent potential of the mobile technology for socio-economic development, especially amongst women, Marten Pieters, Managing Director and CEO, Vodafone India said, “The Vodafone Connected Women Report focuses on the impact and potential of mobile technology in various facets of the lives of women around the world. With gender disparity in itself being a big social challenge in India, the number of women owning a mobile phone is considerably lesser than the men. This gap not only affects women's ability to communicate, but it also presents a lost opportunity in terms of health, education, work, safety and inclusion. At Vodafone, we endeavor to address these issues by developing solutions that harness the power of mobile technology to foster inclusion and empower communities.”
The report illustrates the power of the mobile technology to catalyse economic development and exemplifies its transformational impact across the world with real life cases. Highlighting the impact in India, the Report features on its cover Ramilaben Somabhai Parmar a RUDIben and profiles in detail the success of the RUDI Sandesha Vyavhar (RSV) initiative from India.
RUDI Sandesha Vyavhar (RSV), a special platform developed leveraging mobile technology, enables RUDIbens to submit their orders via SMS on a basic phone. The software records their transactions, enabling them to track sales and reduce paperwork, significantly increasing their productivity and improving quality of life. The system also enables RUDI organisation to track and manage stock levels in real time and reduce inefficiencies that previously contributed to lost sales worth up to 20 per cent of revenue.
According to Anant Nautiyal, Mobile Technology Programme Director, Cherie Blair Foundation for Women, this mobile management information tool is the equivalent of an enterprise resource planning software for small companies. Requiring only basic mobile phones and an SMS platform to work, it has the potential to unlock huge efficiency gains for small supply chains and transform rural economies.
This system, developed through a partnership between the Vodafone Foundation in India, Cherie Blair Foundation for Women and SEWA (Self-Employed Women’s Association), who contracted a local company, Ekgaon Technologies, to write the software. RSV has been designed in such a way that with training, it is easy to use, even for women who are illiterate.
Cherie Blair said, “I have been overwhelmed by the success of the RSV project in Gujarat in partnership with the Self Employed Women’s Association and the Vodafone Foundation in India. Many of the women have been able to increase their income significantly, in some cases by as much as four times. With higher profits, they have been able to send their children to school and afford healthcare.”