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Contribution to mobilise europe by Karin Drda-Kúhn

"European Ambassador for Women Entrepreneurship",

Chair of European Mobile & Mobility Industries Alliance- PLP

Executive summary

   Unlocking the economic power of mobile services is the main target of the EMMIA PLP. 3 Twenty European regions and the cities within them are stri-ving to benefit from the mobile economy. However, it seems that the gender aspects of the processes behind these efforts have not been sufficiently considered. Due to missing data, it is difficult to assess in what way women as users and entrepreneurs profit from this development. The fact is that they are not visible in the development and deployment of mobile services, although it can be assumed that the proportion of women users of mobile applications is constantly increasing. The following article is concerned with what kind of support would specifically encourage and foster women in the development and implementation of mobile services, in order to create eco­nomic benefit.

Women in ICT - disappointing state of the art

   Following experiences in the EMMIA PLP initiative, the exploitation of the potential of mobile services sector, specifically services based on mobile applications, the area is dominated by male entrepreneurs. This may not be surprising as the information and communication technology (ICT) sector in general has a higher share of male workers, just as the majority of techno­logy driven sectors still have. Only 30% of the around seven million people working in the European ICT sector are women. Only nine in 100 European app developers are female. Only 19% of ICT managers are women (45% women in other service sectors). Only 19% of ICT entrepreneurs are women (54% women in other service sectors). They are under-represented at all levels in this sector, especially in decision-making positions.

   The ICT sector is rapidly growing, creating around 120,000 new jobs eve-ry year. Due to differences in demand and skills - and despite soaring unemployment in several European countries - there may be a lack of 900,000 skilled ICT workers in 2020 4 . It seems as if the well-known phenomena of female employment also prevails in the ICT sector. Following a stu­dy covering ICT business sector in Sweden and Baltic countries, "women earn less than their male counterparts, are underrepresented in decision making spheres and are overrepresented in the sphere of familial responsibilities." 5 Data specifically concerning gender aspects in mobile services in the ICT sector seems insufficiently collected and analysed, but available ICT data in general offer most probable transferable trends and indicators.

3  http://www.mobilise-europe.mobi/

4 All data provided is published in "Women Active in the ICT Sector" - A study prepared for the European Commission DG Communications Networks, Content & Technology, 2013

5 Merle Jacob: "Women and Leadership in the ICT Business Sectors of the Baltic and Scandinavian Region", Lund 2009, p. 17

Mobile services - little helpers and business opportunities

   The main aspect of mobile services is the service character, which targets the support of everyday life as well as business opportunities. In fact, mobile services created incredible support infrastructure during the last five years. The development and sales of mobile apps, speak for themselves. Accor-ding to the forecasts of Portio Research 6 the use of mobile apps will grow worldwide at a rate of 29.8% each year, to reach 4.4 billion users by the end of 2017.

6 http://www.portioresearch.com/en/home.aspx (as of September 10th, 2014)

   The number of apps that aim to facilitate the organisation of professional life is enormous; they help us balance our schedule, research on issues, and allow the registration in conferences and check-in on aircrafts. In private life they keep us informed about special offers of our favourite dealers and opening hours of the nearest grocery store, help us to search for the right kindergarten for our children, support health care for senior citizens in rural areas, put holiday deals together individually and organise by 3 o'clock in the morning a taxi in the wood.

   Mobile services meet the needs of working women; they serve as brilliant helpers for personal and professional requirements and assist in the organi-sation of family labour. Does this mean that these apps have been designed by women for women? Can we assume that there are very many business owners, developers and sales women in the field of mobile services?

   Statistically speaking, no! So far gender aspects in the collection and analysis of data about mobile services play little or no role. The common perception is that is mainly men who dominate the market, communicating decisions and presenting new technologies. The contradiction is therefore clear; on the one hand, many mobile services are aimed straight at tasks and requirements traditionally done by a high percentage of women. However, at a business level, it is not the case that women dominate the scene.

   So where are the successful women entrepreneurs of app development? Do specifically gender aspects really matter to them? How do they view their work from a female perspective?

Women as users of mobile services

   In 2012, Ronda Zelezny-Green of Pyramid Research7, a world-wide operating consultancy, identified end user fields for mobile services specifically targeting women: mobile health, mobile education, mobile agriculture, mobile money/banking, mobile social networks. These fields demonstrated that women in particular can benefit both directly and indirectly through time and cost savings, access to life-saving information, the ability to communicate with others (regardless of distance), and even nurturing their ability to read and write. Clearly spoken - the deals are out there, and growing every day. Women are getting more and more used to making the best of it on a private and business level.

7  http://www.pyramidresearch.com/store/mWomen-opportunity-for-mobile-operators.htm?sc=GL020912_ INSGL33CS3 (as of September 10th, 2014)

Mobile services as economic drivers for women entrepreneurs

   In 2012, the London based Cherie Blair Foundation published a comprehensive study which was conducted to understand women entrepreneurs' needs in relation to mobile applications and services. The resulting report studied the main business challenges faced by women entrepreneurs in developing countries, identified existing and new mobile value added services that could be used to address these challenges, and prepared a business case for scaling up those services that would likely have the greatest impact on women entrepreneurs. The study is specifically relevant to show that mobile services are economic drivers in developing economies 8.

   Though studies focused on countries like Indonesia, Nigeria and Egypt, the overall results are relevant for women entrepreneurs worldwide:

  • Specifically, micro-entrepreneurs might benefit strongly from mobile services for their company. This is relevant for emerging business fields like the creative industries, which are dominated by micro enterprises and women.
  • Access to digital channels, affordable resources and access to marketplaces were prioritised as having the greatest potential impact on women enterprises.
  • Women entrepreneurs are willing to use mobile services to address the core challenges they face in their businesses.
  • Women entrepreneurs indicated a willingness to pay for these services.
  • Mobile services offer business opportunities for under developed regi­ons e.g. in rural areas. This is specifically interesting as mobile servi­ces might help women in many European regions beyond the metropolitan areas to start and successfully operate their business.

8  http://www.cherieblairfoundation.org/ (as of September 10th, 2014)

European research needed

   Much more research is needed to get more detail on the obstacles, challenges and chances faced by women acting in the mobile services market. An in-depth study based on European conditions is urgently required in order to get into concrete action. "While these services can benefit all people in regions under-served by traditional infrastructure, women may benefit in particular", writes Jason Kohn in a Cisco Blog9, referring to the results of the study of the Cherie Blair Foundation.

9  http://blogs.cisco.com/cle/empowering-women-with-mobile-services/ (as of September 10th, 2014)

   This statement is underlined by EMMIA PLP's experiences in the rural parts of the twenty highlighted European regions and cities, which are shown to be consistent with this assessment. They are also consistent with experiences in the so called "Large Scale Demonstrator (LSD)" initiatives implemented by EMMIA10 (e. g. in the "LIMES" - LSD11, which aimed at creating cultural touristic business opportunities along the former Roman fortification lines throughout rural Europe where specifically women entrepreneurs joined the activities). This observation is worth further study within a specific, separate evaluation.

  It seems that to date gender aspects of mobile services have only been studied in developing countries. The study of the Cherie Blair Foundation and a special programme of the GSMA initiative: mWoman12 for developing countries seem to be the only initiatives so far. No doubt, these initiatives are of great value for developing countries and clearly show chances and opportunities. A similar study for European countries is strongly desirable as the gender aspects of mobile services are underestimated and not sufficiently identified yet. The starting point for these initiatives is relevant not only for under-developed or rural European regions, but could also support women as entrepreneurs with mobile services and to help in their private life.

10  http://www.mobilise-europe.mobi/large-scale-demonstrators (as of September 10th, 2014)

11  http://limes.per-rlp.de/?lang=en (as of September 10th, 2014)

12  http://www.gsma.com/mobilefordevelopment/programmes/mwomen (as of September 10th, 2014)


   EMMIA PLP experiences confirmed that women are still a minority in the ICT sector: they are barely visible, are under-represented at management and entrepreneur level, participate less in professional conferences and panel discussions. However, this is only one side of the whole issue; we may find the presence of women elsewhere in mobile services. If we are to believe simple observations during the implementation of EMMIA PLP, then women are less active as entrepreneurs and app developers, but rather in the control of work processes, customer contact and the acquisition, in app design and usability testing. They may feel more comfortable in work areas that give more flexibility over time, in which creativity and direct communication with demanding clients is equally important for the success of a product or servi­ce.

   Mobile services offer access to business opportunities for women worldwide and European women should have their share on this big and future orientated market. And we need more European role models like Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer (COO) of Facebook or Google executive Megan Smith (who was appointed US Chief Technology Officer recently) for paving the way for women in technology in Europe and worldwide.

Links and Literature:

  • "Women Active in the ICT Sector" - A study prepared for the European Commission DG Communications Networks, Content & Technology, 2013

   Despite strong evidence regarding the importance of fully incorporating women into the Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) sector, a gender ICT gap still remains in Europe. Moreover, women are underrepre-sented in the sector, particularly in technical and decision-making positions. Women's active participation in the ICT sector is essential for Europe's long-term growth and economic sustainability. The study: Women Active in the ICT Sector is another step in the on-going efforts to tackle the problem. This is achieved by:

  1. updating current data regarding females' roles in the sector;
  2. identifying role models and career paths to inspire women and girls;
  3. assessing the economic impact of incorporating women into the sector;
  4. reviewing the status of the European Code of Best Practices for Women and ICT; and
  5. analysing successful social media campaigns.

   The conclusions of this study provide useful insights, which it is hoped will help to attract women to, and encourage them to remain in the ICT sector.

   Based on these insights several recommendations are proposed:

  1. build a renewed image of the sector;
  2. empower women in the sector;
  3. increase the number of women entrepreneurs in the ICT sector and
  4. improve working conditions in the sector
  • "Mobile Value Added Services: A Business Growth Opportunity for Women Entrepreneurs", Cherie Blair Foundation for Women, London 2012

   The study is specifically relevant to show that mobile services are econo-mic drivers in developing economies. Additional research is currently being implemented. The foundation offers a Mobile Technology Programme which aims to create sustainable economic opportunities for women entrepreneurs through the use of mobile phones and services: http://www.cherieblairfoundation.org/mobile/


   Special thanks for offering expertise and links to persons and publications go to Lisbeth Bahl-Poulsen (European Commission DG Enterprise and Industri­es), Júrgen Vogel and Micael Gustafsson (EMMIA PLP), Franziska Sprenger (AereA NetworX, Kahla), Katrin Heckmann (Enterprise Europe Network, Stutt­gart), Katja von der Bey (Weiberwirtschaft eG,Berlin), Merle Fuchs (Thúringer Netzwerk fúr Innovative Grúndungen, Erfurt), Yvette Dinse (bundesweite grúnderinnenagentur, Rostock), Ruth Davis (University College London) and Nana Fatimah Ognfemi (Techsis Ltd, London).

The author

   Dr. Karin Drda-Kúhn was appointed "European Ambassador for Women Entrepreneurship" by the European Commission in 2010 and chairs since 2012 the European Mobile & Mobility Industries Alliance (EMMIA) - PLP



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