Mobile Miracles in nina-iraq.com
“By being better connected, women feel safer, find employment, start businesses, access banks, learn about market prices and altogether benefit socially and economically.”
Global research shows that access to mobile phones can provide new economic opportunities. The Iraqi mobile sector recorded double-digit growth over the 12 months to September 2013*. This supports an outlook for continued subscriptions growth during a five-year forecast period ending in 2017, driven by network expansion to under-served areas and relatively strong private consumption.
Iraq’s two largest mobile phone operators, Zain and Asiacell, are doing their best to support private-sector growth by connecting people to each other.
Zain focuses on reaching out across Iraq, creating connectivity for even the most rural areas, with new investment in infrastructure adding reach for an additional 3 million people, including some 1.1 million women. Growth plans focus on some of Iraq’s poorest govern orates, including Al-Anbar, Diala and Salahuddin, where poverty rates are above the national average.
In turn since 2011, the proportion of Asiacell’s female customers has grown from 20% to 40% by the end of 2012. In 2011 Asiacell’s leadership recognized that there was low adoption of mobile technology by women and, based on research, decided to shift the strategy completely, launching the Almas Line. This was in response to recorded barriers for women, which included i) lack of purchasing power; ii) risk of harassment from men; iii) reluctance to visit sales shops with almost exclusively male sales representatives and customers; iv) ignorance about mobile telephony, combined with reluctance in calling customer care agents, who could be men; v) concerns from husbands.
This new initiative has led to 1.2 million more women in Iraq becoming more socially and financially independent, thanks to their access to mobile technology, through an opportunity which has been created just for them. Incentives and benefits for women include a 50% discount after the third minute, as call analysis shows that women tend to talk longer than men, freedom for women to choose their own off-peak hours, discounted rates for off-network calls, and a free “bye-bye” service that blocks potential harassers from calling or texting.
This service has also enabled the distribution of vital information focusing on women’s health and welfare issues, through a Value Added Services menu with targeted female-focused content. Dr. Diar Ahmed, senior advisor to Asiacell’s chairman, said: “Asiacell’s contribution to closing the gender gap in mobile phone use can be seen and measured, as the number of female customers continues to grow. The next step is to help support and facilitate economic participation through mobile technology, by adding new services and new opportunities for women. We have a strong belief in the power of mobile technology to empower women in being agents of economic and social development.”
Both Zain and Asiacell have created initiatives that have required significant finance, as well as innovation and ingenuity – but as Iraq’s mobile giants are finding (in a market that is proving to be increasingly competitive), doing good is also good business!
Top Tips for Mobile Phone Safety
Despite all the positives of mobile phones for women, there have been incidences reported across the country of links to domestic violence and honour killings, where mobile phones have been used to take and share images and where women’s numbers have been shared without their knowledge. Safety must always be a top priority, so with advice from industry experts Nina has compiled these safety tips:
- Don’t give your mobile number to someone you don’t know.
- Don’t reply to any nasty messages you receive.
- Don’t reply to a text from someone you don’t know.
- Don’t answer calls from withheld numbers or numbers you don’t recognize
- Block numbers from people who are sending you nasty messages.
- If you are harassed repeatedly, you can change your number.
- Don’t send pictures to someone you don’t know
- Don’t let someone take your picture on their mobile