The bias against women in rural areas is now visible in the digital space as well with only 29% women in India’s hinterland owning a cellphone compared to 76% men.
To bridge this digital gender gap, telecom service provider Uninor along with GSMA, an association of mobile operators and related companies, will invest Rs 1.1 crore over seven months. The Project Sampark aims to increase women’s access to the use of cellphones and remove barriers such as affordability, mental block or social stigma that are generally attached with women owning a handset. It also plans to introduce schemes such as the “Jodi” pack, which is a set of two SIM cards, where one SIM goes to the male member of the family and the other to the female member.
GSMA’s Mobile For Development Foundation, Inc will provide a Rs 42 lakh funding for Project Sampark through its connected women programme, which provides seed funding to telecom operators for the design and launch of economically sustainable products. Uninor will provide the remaining Rs 68 lakh.
“Mobile technology has the ability to change the way we communicate... Gender disparity is echoed in mobile usage,” said Morten Karlsen Sorby, CEO, Uninor.
The company plans to sell 6,000 connections every month under the project, which was launched last month in a pilot phase in 87 villages of Aligarh district in Western UP. For the roll out of the pilot phase, about 40 women participated in the exercise.