Uninor, the Indian arm of Norwegian telecom major Telenor, will invest over Rs68.52 lakh ($113,654) to launch 'Project Sampark', an initiative aimed at increasing the number of women using mobile phones and promote solutions towards lifting barriers to women's use of mobile phones.
The move, which aims at increasing teledensity among women, especially in rural areas, involves a total investment of Rs1.11 crore ($183,654) over an estimated seven-month duration of the project, while the industry body GSMA will provide Rs42.20 lakh ($70,000) to support the project.
According to Uninor, `Project Sampark' is being launched as a pilot project to assess the barriers that women face in accessing mobile services such as affordability, mental block or social stigma attached to women owning a handset.
The GSM Association (GSMA) is partnering Uninor for the initiative, the company said in a statement.
The operator will be awarded GSMA's Mobile for Development Foundation through its 'Connected Women' programme, which provides seed funding to design and launch economically sustainable products and services.
''Mobile technology has the ability to change the way we communicate, but its effects are not evenly distributed. Gender disparity is also echoed in mobile usage. This is a significant area of concern and what better way than using mobile connectivity to help deal with this developmental challenge. The launch of 'Project Sampark' is a first step in this direction and we are encouraged by the support from GSMA to endorse this initiative,'' said Morten Karlsen Sorby, CEO, Uninor,.
''Uninor is committed to ensure the benefits of mobile services reach not just a few but to the many. This project will be truly path-breaking in its intent as it will be self sustainable, scalable and will continue to provide livelihood opportunity for women while building awareness on the benefits of mobile connectivity,'' he added.
The total investment over the seven-month duration of the project is estimated at $183,654. Uninor will be contributing $113,654 while GSMA will be granting $70,000 to support the project.
Project Sampark will assess the barriers that women face in accessing mobile services such as affordability, mental block or social stigma attached to women owning a handset. The project will aim at enhancing teledensity among women especially in the rural pockets of India, the release said.
''Uninor has always looked at avenues to reach out to similar sections of society across the socio-economic landscape and has tried its best to make a difference, big or small. Realising the need to provide mobile benefits to women living in the rural areas, we have developed a product, which will be a value proposition for women subscribers who still haven't experienced the mobile services. Uninor spurs the first ever product that will be made available to the target audience at the customer door step through women promoters who have been exclusively trained to sell this,'' said Rajeev Sethi, CMO, Uninor.
Uninor has identified 87 villages of Aligarh district of Western UP for a pilot project by testing business case of a commercial offering that helps reduce a multitude of barriers women face in accessing mobile services.
For the roll out of the pilot, 40 women and four supervisors will participate, including influential women in the region who are Anganwadi and ASHA supporters who can persuasively spread the message.
Uninor will also train women entrepreneurs to make a livelihood by offering them an opportunity to sell mobile prepaid connections and recharge vouchers.
''The GSMA's Connected Women Programme aims to increase women's access to and use of mobile phones and life-enhancing mobile services. Generally, in developing markets the decision makers for women are the male members in the family and the Connected Women programme works to minimise this gender gap between men and women in accessing mobiles technology. We are pleased to be working with Uninor in India and are excited to see the results of this project in the coming year,'' said Zouhair Khaliq, managing director, GSMA Mobile For Development.
Uninor's pre-paid GSM services are available in the six circles of UP (West), UP (East), Bihar (including Jharkhand), Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat. Uninor will be rolling out services in the seventh circle of Assam shortly.
Uninor is the Indian majority-owned subsidiary of Norway's Telenor Group, one of the major European mobile operators.