Mar 2 , 2019

The state telecom monopoly is investing 50.4 million Br to distribute 70,000 mobile handsets to rural women for the upcoming International Women’s Day.

The state telecom monopoly is investing 50.4 million Br to distribute 70,000 mobile handsets to rural women for the upcoming International Women’s Day.

The mobile devices will be distributed by Ethio telecom on March 8, 2019, to beneficiaries selected from 846 weredasacross the country. Each handset is valued at 720 Br, will have a SIM Card, 15 Br worth of airtime and provide text messaging and internet services.

The telecom took the initiative of distributing the mobile phones with the primary aim of encouraging women’s participation in the economy, social life and technology, according to Cherer Aklilu, an executive director at Ethio telecom. The telecom giant earned 16.7 billion Br in revenue in the first half of the current fiscal year.

“The mobile handsets will be given away to women who don't have one,” Cherer told Fortune. "Female mobile phone usage in Ethiopia is way lower than men."

Groupe Speciale Mobile Association, a global company that releases a report on mobile ecology, confirms Cherer's assertion of a gender gap in mobile phone usage.

"In low and middle-income countries the number of women-owned mobiles is 10pc lower than those of men," reads the Association's report released last year.

Even those who use mobile phones are less likely to be knowledgeable with technology services such as the internet, adds the report.

In these countries, 1.2 billion women do not use mobile internet, leading them to lag behind the digital world and holding them back from taking advantage of the economic empowerment that could be gained from technology.

Generally in Ethiopia, the level of internet usage is also low. Out of the total revenue generated by the company in the first six months of the current fiscal year, the internet has contributed only one-fourth of it.

Beneficiaries will be screened from the 14 districts, where the company operates, with the support of women’s associations in their respective weredasand kebeles, according to Cherer.

This is not the first time the company granted mobile phones. Last year, the company rewarded its 15,000 permanent employees by giving them mobile phones procured at a cost of 100.5 million Br.

Yehenew Wonde (PhD), a former employee of Ethio telecom and a current lecturer at Addis Abeba University, seconded the move of the company in benefiting rural women.

With proper targeting, this access to information can help them develop businesses by enabling them to communicate with the other side of the country, according to the expert.

However, he cautions that the company should screen the beneficiaries to meet the targeted plan.

“Such plans will be meaningless unless there is a meticulous selection process to target women that truly don’t own phones,” said Yehenew.

According to data from Ethio telecom, the state-owned company has 41.1 million customers, of which 39.5 million are mobile voice subscribers, while the remaining are data and internet users. In the first half of this year, the company grossed 11.8 billion Br in profit.

PUBLISHED ON Mar 02,2019 [ VOL 19 , NO 983]

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