Smartphone access helps empower women in less developed countries

Washington: Women who have access to mobile phones in less or least developed countries are more likely to be involved in decision making, hence, bringing a chance of empowerment,according to recent study. Putting smartphones in women’s hands could be a powerful tool to support sustainable development goals in the developing world, according to researchers from McGill University, University of Oxford, and Bocconi University.

The study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of the Sciences covers 209 countries between 1993 and 2017 and shows that access to mobile phones is associated with multiple indicators linked to global social development, such as good health, gender equality, and poverty reduction. In an effort to better understand how mobile phones empower women, the authors also conducted an individual-level analysis on 100,000 women from Angola, Burundi, Ethiopia, Malawi, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zimbabwe between 2015 and 2017.

Though these sub-Saharan countries show slow fertility decline and infant and maternal mortality rates remain high, the adoption of mobile phones is fast spreading. Results indicate that other things being equal, women who own mobile phone have a 1 per cent higher probability of being involved in decision-making processes about contraception, 2 per cent higher likelihood of using modern contraceptive methods, and a 3 per cent higher likelihood of knowing where to get tested for HIV with respect to women who do not own a phone.

These effects are size able, as they are comparable to, if not bigger than,the effects of living in an urban area compared to living in a rural area. Similar effects are estimate do higher overall decision-making power within the household. According to the researchers, improved knowledge and enhanced decision-making power are the likely pathways through which the macro-level results emerge.

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