- Special Pages
Qtel Group’s Chief Executive Officer Dr Nasser Marafih
DAVOS/DOHA: Qtel Group’s Chief Executive Officer Dr Nasser Marafih while speaking at a panel discussion at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos called for telecom operators to do more to address the global digital gender divide, a statement issued by the telecom giant said yesterday.
“A collaborative approach by a diverse group of stakeholders in all countries is required,” said Dr Marafih.
Comprising ministers, academics and other business leaders, the group specifically looked at how information technology can be harnessed, in particular engaging women in computer science, leveraging collaborative platforms and targeting ICT (information and communication technologies) skills gaps.
He added: “We know that ICT is a major enabler for economic growth and prosperity at the individual, community and national level. We also know that women can be powerful drivers of economic growth, often responsible for health, education, economic stability and well-being of their families and communities. Yet women are increasingly losing out in the technology revolution.”
A research by ‘GSMA mWomen’ has shown that there are 300 million fewer female than male mobile subscribers globally and that women comprise nearly two-thirds of the estimated untapped market for mobile growth.
Additional data shows that women are 21 percent less likely to own a mobile phone than a man globally. In terms of getting online, women in low-to-medium income countries are estimated to be 40 percent less likely to use the internet to the same extent as men.
‘GSMA mWomen’ is an international programme dedicated to reducing the mobile phone gender gap especially in emerging markets. And Qtel Group is part of the programme.
This digital gender divide is getting worse with a steady increase in the number of women likely to live outside the economic system for a broad variety of reasons. This is estimated to grow to one billion — or 25 percent of the world’s female population — over the next decade.
Marafih added: “If our industry does not rise to the challenge then women around the world risk being left further behind, making the digital gender divide an ever greater problem. Operators must do more to develop services specifically designed for female customers, reflecting what they need and want.”
Although the ideals of the Internet are often egalitarian, in practice, it can often appear male-oriented and elitist, compounded by other barriers such as access, more limited technical literacy skills; limited understanding of the full potential of mobile devices and services; cultural and social challenges as well as cost. Overcoming these barriers is critical for women to effectively harness technology and innovation and to accelerate progress in areas such as education, food security, job creation, and public health.
Last September GSMA undertook a fact-finding tour to Iraq to learn about Qtel Group’s highly successful mWomen initiatives in the country that has successfully brought about an increase in the proportion of female customers from 20 to almost 40 percent in 18 months.
Qtel Group has also partnered with GSMA for the GSMA mWomen Design Challenge which aims to redesign the smartphone user experience to better meet the needs of resource-poor women. The winners will be announced at the World Mobile Congress in Barcelona next month.