future of the internet
While technology has been at the forefront of the fight against global poverty, The Future of Wireless International Conference in Cambridge, U.K. has promoted new ideas on this front. According to Cherie Blair, one of the keynote speakers of the conference, the internet has the ability to equalize the poverty gap between men and women.

As a non-profit organization, Cambridge Wireless is dedicated to finding new and innovative uses for technologies. Blair looks towards Africa as the future of the internet and as a new platform for mobile and internet technologies. While many African nations have skipped forming industrialized infrastructure straight to cell phones, the number of people who have access to internet via cellphones is still disproportionately swayed.

In a market of nearly 84 million cellphones, the depth of knowledge that the internet provides can help develop skills in the rural areas. For instance, the implementation of tablet computers in Malaysia by the Cherie Blair Foundation has been successful in merging technology with mentoring from around the world. This Foundation has created a network of support and resources for women in Malaysia.

The Cherie Blair Foundation’s goal is to help women achieve financial independence and therefore gain greater control over their lives and their families. The path towards achieving this relies heavily on a program of mentorship and financial capital to help these women become self-sufficient. Investing in women has a trickle-down effect for their children since women invest about 90 percent of their profits into their families.

While the Cherie Blair Foundation has been pioneering the use of technology for economic progress, they are not alone. Many foundations around the world are using leapfrogging technologies to help advance developing countries. Initiatives like the One Laptop per Child have helped invest in generations of entrepreneurs in developing nations.

The internet and cell phone applications bring the world closer together than ever before, and they can be used to relieve poverty more and more as technology progresses. With the possibilities to gather knowledge from online resources as well as connect to people worldwide, the internet enables greater development than before.

-Kristin Ronzi

Sources: Cambridge Wireless, Cherie Blair Foundation
Photo: Women News Network


The Rural Distribution Network India (RUDI) has introduced a mobile phone application to quadruple the incomes of rural Indian women, according to an article by the Guardian on June 10.

RUDI is a large rural cooperative founded by India’s Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) whose mission is to empower Indian women.  The RUDI network is designed to gather produce from a collaboration of India’s poor farmers and allow them to obtain higher prices on wholesale markets.  Once the produce is sourced from these farmers, rural saleswomen travel throughout villages to sell the goods.  This simple business model has rapidly expanded to include around 2,000 businesswomen in Gujarat, India. However, the success has not been without its drawbacks.

Originally the women involved in the project were sent out into the villages to find sales and then had to travel long distances back to the RUDI centers in order to place these orders.  The majority of the saleswomen’s time was spent traveling to and from the RUDI centers.

SEWA collaborated with the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women and Vodafone India to create a mobile phone application that allows these saleswomen to place orders through text messages on the low tech mobile phones that they were already using.  This saves these women the time they used to spend placing orders and allows them to make more sales, which has drastically increased their profits.  One saleswoman saw her income increase from 250 rupees to 5,000 rupees a day.

Empowering these women in such a way can lift whole communities out of poverty.  Women, unlike men, are likely to invest about 90 percent of their income back into their own communities, thereby contributing to economic growth within the area.  According to the Global Poverty Project, women also make up nearly 70 percent of the world’s 1 billion poorest people, and produce half of the world’s food.  As former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan put it:  “there is no tool for development more effective than the empowerment of women.”

– Martin Drake
Source: The Guardian, Global Poverty Project
Photo: Global Giving