In our first “Woman in Mobile Spotlight,” we featured a computer scientist who created multilingual mobile-based STEM learning tools. In this edition we are proud to feature a woman whose skills in mobile policy were first honed while working for former U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton. Angela Baker, Senior Manager for Qualcomm® Wireless Reach™, shares with us how she leveraged her education in international relations to help shape an exciting career in tech, which includes providing government guidance for mobile health and mobile learning initiatives worldwide. We think she’s amazing because how many people can say they have contributed to improving maternal health in Morocco with mobile ultrasounds?! 

How did you get into the mobile industry?

My background is primarily in politics. I worked on political campaigns and in government for 10 years. In 2008, I worked for Secretary Clinton on her presidential campaign.  An opportunity opened up about two years later to work for Secretary Clinton at the U.S. State Department in her Innovation and Technology Office – an office she created when she came in as Secretary. It, was a small office, but she was making a big push for the use of technology in diplomacy. I came on board to do planning and project management, and that was when I became really interested in technology. That was in 2011 and during my time there, we did a lot of cool things, like work on internet freedom and building the capacity of NGOs through the use of technology in a program called TechCamp. […]. I co-led a technology delegation to Brazil, which included a woman from Qualcomm with whom I really hit it off. When I decided to leave the State Department in 2012, I reconnected with my Qualcomm contact, who happened to be hiring for a senior position on the Wireless Reach team, which was very serendipitous.

Coming from a non-traditional mobile industry background, how does what you studied apply to what you’re doing now with Qualcomm?

Wireless Reach is a strategic corporate social responsibility program (CSR).  It’s unique to other CSR programs, as we’re housed in the Government Affairs division. A lot of our programs are done in conjunction with foreign governments because we’re funding projects around the globe in the areas of education, health, entrepreneurship, public safety and the environment. For the most part, those are issues in which governments are interested. My Bachelor’s degree is in International Relations and my Master’s degree is in International Conflict Analysis and Resolution.

For my Master’s, I studied about the effect of conflict on women, and now I oversee the mWomen vertical at Qualcomm, which focuses on women and mobile.  My background and experience are helpful, because when working with different governments, we believe mobile can have a positive impact on the economic and educational issues they are facing. I think there’s a big tie-in to the traditional path of study I took to the work I am doing now.

Do you have a favorite project that you’re working on at Qualcomm?

We have a really great program in Morocco where we trained ultrasound technicians to take ultrasounds, and transmit the images over the 3G network. This enables doctors or ultrasound technicians in rural areas to get second opinions on images in a faster, more cost efficient way. It started as an effort to help prevent placenta previa which is a fairly common condition in pregnancy, but because it often goes untreated, it results in maternal health problems. Angela BakerThe only way to detect those issues are with an ultrasound. We ran the first trial in a few rural areas of Morocco. There were a number of successes that came from it, the main one being that the amount of time to share ultrasound images and to get a diagnosis significantly decreased. Because of the success, the Government of Morocco has agreed to scale the project to ten health clinics around Rabat and eventually nationally over the next few years.

What is your favorite mobile learning app, one that you use yourself?

I use a lot of social media to get access to information. I don’t push a lot out on Twitter but it’s where I go for news and information and I follow a lot of mobile leaders. Snapchat is sort of growing in that area and people are sharing information on that platform.

What advice do you have for other women who might be interested in pursuing a career in mobile technology?

We’re trying to do a lot of work at Qualcomm to help build the pipeline of girls and women who study STEM. We’re trying to focus early on because research has shown that girls start to lose interest around middle school.]. For girls and women interested in mobile tech, I would say that there are a lot of real world applications. We have this preconceived idea of an engineer or a coder, sitting in a room, crunching numbers all day or reading lines of code. I love my job because we’re really looking at how we can leverage the benefits of mobile for social good. If you are a girl or a woman and you want to change the world, or you want to help women and girls, the mobile device is going to be the way to do that. What better time to study mobile technology than now?

The February 2015 issue of the Gender & Mobile/Learning Newsletter is now available! You may access the newsletter on the web by clicking this link.

This had to be one of my favorite issues to put together since it provided me with a good excuse to chat to friend and colleague Dr. Mmaki Jantjies of South Africa. Mmaki is a legend in my book, having completed her PhD in three years flat while her husband was doing a PhD at the same time! If only I could be more like her in my own doctoral pursuits!

More related to this newsletter is that Mmaki’s work in mobile-assisted language learning is revolutionary: it allows users to switch between their mother tongue language and the language that is the medium of instruction for the STEM subject they are learning. Before her groundbreaking work, I had not heard of much activity in this area. What a truly meaningful and incredible contribution by a woman working in mobile. I am sure you will enjoy reading about the interview with Mmaki in the newsletter as much as I enjoyed conducting it!

kidogokidogoIt was also a great pleasure to read about kidogo kidogo, a social enterprise that is helping to broaden women’s access to mobile technology. This is achieved by designing fashionable phone cases which are sold, and the profits from these sales are then used to subsidize the cost of a phone purchase for women in Tanzania.

There are loads of people doing incredible work in gender and mobiles, and in our next issue I do hope we can feature men doing work with mobiles and perhaps women, too! If you have any ideas, please be in touch.

The August issue of the Gender & Mobile/Learning Newsletter is now available! You may access the newsletter on the web by clicking this linkMama Zambia

This particular issue of the newsletter appears to be dominated by mobile network operators (MNOs), and in this case that is a very good thing! MNOs often get a bad reputation since they only seemed to be concerned with their bottom line. While this is undoubtedly true, who says you can’t make money AND do good at the same time?

This issue features an Airtel Zambia partnership with Internet.org to offer the popular MAMA app to people in the country. Although Airtel Zambia will not generate any revenue from this, indirect benefits should be a handsome reward. Bangalink (Bangladesh), Airtel Uganda, and Zain (South Sudan) also provide a few products and services that I hope we will see scale in the coming years, especially Zain’s training to teach women how to create mobile apps!

The June 2014 issue of the Gender & Mobile/Learning Newsletter is now available! You may access the newsletter on the web by clicking this link

While it is difficult to make a choice, I think my favorite story from this issue is definitely about Instagram’s first female engineer. Instagram's female engineer This was such an important story to me because it honestly shocked me that with how much I see girls and women using Instagram, this is the first time they’ve had a female engineer on board. How did they manage to figure out what women want without having women to help them?

One can’t help but wonder if this was a coordinated PR scheme by Instagram to appear to be one of the “good companies” in the wake of the abysmal and absolutely appalling performances of most major tech companies when it comes to gender and ethnic diversity.

Although a writer for The Atlantic rightly argues that simply tallying up “enough” female tech workers is not a sincere or sustainable way to address the hiring disparities among the top tech firms, at this point it is a start. Let’s not forget the old adage about crawling before flying.

Nevertheless, with as much innovation as we see coming out of these companies, how is it possible that no one has innovated in the HR department?! It will be good to see what happens over the next few years in this space.

Back in March I co-authored a blog post with Sarah Johns about the proliferation of mobile-based tools to aid women when they are facing gender-based violence. Spurred in part by a rash of globally publicized rape incidents involving women and girls (most notably in India), these mobile tools were either lauded or questioned because of their utility and relevance to the contexts in which they were being used. A common yet sometimes forgotten refrain on the topic is that it is important to teach men and boys not to rape in addition to any other protective measures women and girls might use mobiles for in order to prevent or alert others to threats of gender-based violence they face. One initiative that I think may be another step in the right direction is the launch of ‘Help Emergency Assistance Rescue Terminal’, or HEART in Gujarat State, India.

 

1368873458_gujarat-police

 

This toll-free service was launched so that police can have immediate contact with and a better response time to women and girls who are subjected to distress. One thing that I believe is unique and potentially very helpful is the fact that women only need to dial the toll-free number (which can be accessed via mobile or a landline) and their location will be pinpointed and police sent right away. This sounds similar to emergency response services in the US. Other promising aspects of this service:

  1. Women and girls will be encouraged to register their details (in either Gujarati or Hindi, so bonus points for language accessibility) so that when the help line receives a call from the woman or girl, up to 10 of her designated contacts will be notified, too;
  2. Police personnel are being trained to respond to women and girls that are encountering or have encountered violence, in addition to gender-based violence sensitivity training.

 

Nevertheless, I will reserve my excitement on this development after finding an article from December 2012 which raises questions about whether this service is legitimate.

Fake India help line number

A previous help line launched in Gujarat State with the same ‘1091’ number was found to direct callers to a shop keeper instead of the police! At the time, police spokespeople had no explanation for the mix-up and initially thought that the problem was isolated to calls received from mobiles; it was found that landlines were directed to the shop keeper as well. Given this, one can only hope that the revamped version of HEART has been tested to ensure that women and girls can receive the help that they need if they use the service.

Overall, I think that this initiative is one that has great potential if women and girls are connected to police when they need it because it will entail a collaborative response effort and involve law enforcement who have been made aware on some level what the women and girls might be going through. HEART seems to buck the mobile hype in this area to create a tool that is sustainable, localized and affordable for users. It will be interesting to see if other Indian states follow suit and what will happen to those found guilty of any violent acts.