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Business

Smart part of global mobile program to empower women

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WASHINGTON, DC – US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Cherie Blair have backed an unprecedented partnership between the global mobile industry and the international development community to bring the benefits of mobile to more women in developing countries. Smart Communications Inc. is the only Philippine telecommunications company participating under the banner of the Global System for Mobile Association (GSMA).

Dubbed “GMSA mWomen Program,” the project was launched here Thursday by GSMA CEO Rob Conway, with Clinton and Blair. It seeks to narrow the “gender gap” revealed in a groundbreaking study by the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women showing that more than 300 million women worldwide are missing out on what mobile can enable.

“The program aims to halve the gender gap…and bring the power of mobile to more than 150 million women in developing markets, within three years,” GSMA said in a statement.

Conway said that mobile “has proven to be a major driver for good in society, and in particular we know the ubiquity of mobile phones is bringing life changing benefits to those most in need in the developing world.”

Clinton outlined the benefits of the mobile channel for empowering women in the developing world.

Blair, wife of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, said she was thrilled to be an mWomen champion.

“Mobile phones are an indispensable personal, economic and development tool, she said. “Helping more women access mobile technology means they can feel safer, improve their literacy, access vital health information and generate a better income,” she added, citing the findings of her foundation’s study, authored by Vital Wave Consulting.

The key components of GSMA mWomen Program include offering technical assistance, development of business cases for mobile phone operators, and providing value-added and life-changing services in health, education, finance and entrepreneurship, to be delivered by mobile phone operators in partnership with the international development community.

“By increasing access to mobile connectivity and services, women living on less than $2 per day will achieve a greater sense of security, independence, economic opportunity and connection with the world outside their homes,” GSMA said.

Smart president and CEO Napoleon L. Nazareno said: “We are honored to be part of this noble endeavor, especially since the majority of our subscribers are from the ‘base of the pyramid’ – housewives, farmers and fisher folk, women cooperative members, students, daily wage earners, micro-entrepreneurs, many of whom are women.”

Aside from ensuring affordable and accessible services, Smart also encourages micro-entrepreneurs by providing additional sources of income through the sale of electronic top-up loads called Smart Load. One example is Hapinoy, a social business enterprise initiative for women of Microventures, Inc. that boosts the profitability of member sari-sari or mom-and-pop stores nationwide.

In 2008, Smart and GSMA signed an agreement to provide Internet connectivity and computerization to 15 lead stores under Hapinoy. The agreement is the first forged between the GSMA and a Philippine telecommunications firm under the GSM Development Fund.

The mWomen Program is aligned with the UN Millennium Development Goals, particularly MDG 3 on Gender Equity, and the UN Economic and Social Council’s renewed focus on the need for greater investment in women and girls.

“I am delighted and honored to be launching this important initiative with the backing of Secretary Clinton and Mrs. Blair, and hope that this marks the beginning of close and continued efforts to empower and enable women and address the barriers to mobile phone access,” said GSMA’s Conway.

BRITISH PRIME MINISTER TONY BLAIR

CHERIE BLAIR FOUNDATION

CLINTON AND BLAIR

CONWAY

DEVELOPMENT FUND

ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL COUNCIL

GSMA

MOBILE

WOMEN

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