Research indicates that there is a significant gender gap in access to mobile technology in South Asia, where a man is 37% more likely to have access to a mobile phone than a woman. Closing this gender gap could be nothing short of life-changing, enabling women to access vital business and financing opportunities that can, in turn, enhance their incomes and livelihoods.

In 2012, the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women collaborated with the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) to produce a report called Connectivity: How Mobile Phones, Computers and the Internet Can Catalyze Women’s Entrepreneurship. The report followed our 2010 ‘Women Mean Business’ conference in Mumbai, where leading Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) professionals and women entrepreneurs gathered to discuss the potential of technology to overcome the barriers facing so many women entrepreneurs in India.

The Connectivity report investigates how ICTs, particularly mobile phones, can – and are – changing women’s lives through business creation. It shows that providing women entrepreneurs with the right technology can yield economic and social benefits not just for her, but for her family, community and country.

As a result of this study, the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women developed a pioneering initiative aimed at enhancing economic opportunities for a network of saleswomen selling agricultural products in rural India. In partnership with the Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) and the Vodafone Foundation in India, we developed a simple mobile information system that enables these women to place orders and track sales via a basic mobile handset.


  • India is a dynamic setting because it is: a rapidly expanding ICT sector, a budding inclusion of women in economic roles even as the country grapples with gender inequalities, and an environment poised for economic growth and social inclusion.
  • Persistent economic and social barriers in India are still preventing women from reaching their economic potential.
  • Indian women are readily adopting ICTs for business when given the chance, in large part because they recognise that they can improve efficiency and increase social status.
  • Whilst computers and the Internet allow women to build entrepreneurial success, mobile phones have the most potential because their portability and ease of use make them a particularly friendly tool to support women’s business growth.
  • Sustainability remains a challenge for most initiatives promoting ICTs for women’s entrepreneurship. The successful ones are built out of multi-sectorial partnerships.

‘Now with all our business converging onto the mobile, and with the mobile making life so simple, I can think of growth without getting stressed. My markets, my vendors… they are all just an SMS away.’
– Sarita, IT centre owner, India


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The International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) works to make women in developing countries an integral part of alleviating global poverty. Their research evidence identifies women’s contributions as well as the obstacles that prevent them from being economically strong and able to fully participate in society. ICRW translates these insights into a path of action that honors women’s human rights, ensures gender equality and creates the conditions in which all women can thrive.

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