November 07, 2012
The mobile phone is gaining widespread popularity as a means to bridge the "last mile" – a way of bringing information and financial services to hard-to-reach people who don't have ready access to them. To get a better picture of how to best deliver mobile services, we conducted a case study with our partner, Cashpor Microcredit, a microfinance institution based in Varanasi, India. There are 300 million fewer women than men who own mobile phones in developing countries, and high barriers to entry remain for women. This study investigates some of these concerns, specifically whether women have limited access to savings services delivered via the mobile phone. It finds that, though enthusiasm for the mobile phone as a way to deliver these services is justified, there is evidence that poor women have limited access to and lack literacy with mobile devices, creating a gap in their access to financial and other services delivered this way. You can download the full report here, but we'll share with you here the three key lessons:
1. Promoting mobile phone ownership among women is critical to ensure their access to services.
Women who own phones make more frequent savings deposits than women who borrow a phone. In addition, half of the women who borrow a phone reported that there are times when their access is limited, due chiefly to the primary user taking it with him for work during the day. These women’s ability to make a deposit depends on whether the phone is available to them during their weekly Cashpor meeting. Women who do not have access to a phone cannot save with Cashpor, which effectively excludes them from access to a safe and reliable place to save their own and their family’s money.
2. Providing mobile phone literacy training is essential among these women.
Of the 65 women we spoke with, only 23 were able to use the phone independently; of those women, 13 own a phone. The women who cannot use a phone independently reported asking their husbands, sons, daughters and neighbors for help to answer, hang up or dial the phone. Mobile phone literacy training would 1) ensure that women are empowered and feel a sense of ownership over the product; 2) demystify the mobile phone; and 3) enable knowledge transfer to children and grandchildren, ensuring that they are also able to take advantage of mobile phone-delivered financial services in the future.
3. The children of Cashpor clients know much more about mobile phones than their parents.
Women reported that their children – both boys and girls – knew how to use mobile phones and reported asking their children how to use a feature on the phone, typically how to make a call. Interestingly, only a few women reported that their children have classes in school with computers or cell phones. Most children are teaching themselves how to use the phone and are passing that knowledge along to their mothers.