K.I.S.S. = Keep It Simple, Sumitra

When I first came across the story of the Indian girl who used her mobile phone to record the conversation that We want justice not appspreceded her attempted rape by an uncle, I was floored! Here was a home-grown, tech-based solution delivered on the spot, and without any complications. But why is this so amazing?

Over the past year I have been blogging about my slight annoyance of the various bandwagon solutions that have sought to outdo each other in order to capitalize off of the increasing attention given to rapes of girls and women in India. Although many of these solutions are good-intentioned, at the end of the day, any tech solution to any major social problem needs to be so seamless that a user can use it almost intuitively. With an app, you may have to fumble around to get it, and really, when you may be seconds away from being raped, who’s going to deal with all of that maneuvering?!

Phone recordingRecording audio and/or video on a mobile phone may seem almost too simple. And that’s because it is. Moreover, when you consider that girls and women typically face a second injustice after being raped, a mix of disbelief or nonsensical blame by others, having hard proof of what exactly happened should go a LONG way to eliminating doubt about how the unfortunate events transpired.

 

So while the hunt is still on for the uncle, there is at least 0% doubt as to his guilt. Hat tip to the girl the Indian press refers to as “Sumitra” for a tech solution that literally any girl or woman can use, no downloads necessary.

It’s hard to believe that just over a year ago, I wrote an Insider report for Pyramid Research discussing the potential to create vertical synergy by positioning mobile money as a horizontal market enabler with much to offer industries as diverse as education, insurance and agriculture.

Source: BizTech Africa

Source: BizTech Africa

Now with MTN Cameroon’s launch of a service that enables university students to pay their fees via mobile money, I’m growing more hopeful that my prediction is starting to be realized.

But what possible synergies might exist for mobile money services and the still nascent area of mobile women, or mWomen?

We already know that, particularly in developing countries, mobile money services have been used by women’s groups to collectively pool and save money. We also know that women have become mobile money agents, creating businesses that help them further their contributions to their communities. But what else can be done?

Right now, I am thinking of the ability to use a mobile money service to support women and men who experience domestic violence and must leave their homes in a rush with little or nothing in order to escape their abusers. Often, these people have limited finances because of the control exerted by their partners. If domestic violence support organizations could help them access funding support quickly, it could mean help for men and women would be within reach much faster. Efforts could even be led by domestic violence survivors as a sort of crowdfunding response.

What else can you think of? Please feel free to share your ideas in the comments section. I will update this entry as I have other thoughts and ideas!

In July 2013, The Economist spotlighted the seemingly “surprising” statistic that approximately 35% of tech entrepreneurs in Western Asia are women, which supposedly outstrips that of entrepreneurs who are women in places like North America and Europe. Many on the Internet have said their surprise stems from the [mis]conception that women in Western countries are “less oppressed” than their Western Asian counterparts, and so they should perform better in this area. 

But I think people really shouldn’t be surprised. As the old adage goes, “adversity breeds success.” A number of women in Western Asia think that they may be even better prepared for the rough and tumble tech entrepreneurship world not only because of high rates of tertiary education completion in the region, but also because they are skilled at forging partnerships and compromises with the managerial skills developed in the country contexts they live in.

Source: changemakers.org

Source: changemakers.org

Here’s five reasons why I think we need to jettison the surprise and start to celebrate the success of Western Asian women in tech entrepreneurship:

1. Success anywhere for women in tech is success for us all.

2. Especially in the wealthier countries of Western Asia, imagine the potential if ventures [co-]generated by women were able to gain access to funding that made their ideas a reality! What innovations might await us?

3. For women in more conservative areas of Western Asia, the ability to gain virtual mobility through remote working is a nascent, and possibly transformative, avenue for them to make further contributions to their societies.

4. Frankly, hearing something like this from a region that is somewhat under-discussed in ICT4D is like a breath of fresh air. Is Latin America next on the move?

5. The inspiration to young girls in Western Asia that undoubtedly comes from seeing their female compatriots succeed in an area that they may not have previously believed was open to them.