7 reasons why mobile innovation is one of our greatest opportunities to lift girls out of poverty

On International Day of the Girl, Girl Effect is celebrating the transformative role mobile can play in girls’ lives

The mobile revolution has touched the lives of billions of people the world over. With 3.77 billion people now using the internet, two thirds of which do so via a mobile phone, it represents a significant opportunity to reach vulnerable girls, and understand the realities of their world in a way that’s not been possible before.

Here are seven ways mobile is representing an enormous opportunity for girls.

1. More girls than ever are accessing the mobile internet: According to the latest GSMA report on Women & Mobile, 600 million more women and girls will own a mobile phone by 2022. Nearly all will come from middle and low income countries.

2. But there’s still room to improve: A female in a low or middle-income country is 21% less likely to own a mobile phone than a male.

3. Mobile connects girls to the world: Mobile makes it possible to reach girls wherever they are in the world, and connect them to vital information, inspiration, and to each other. It can transform the isolation a girl can feel and provide a channel for her to ask the questions she might be afraid to ask. Springster is Girl Effect’s global mobile-first platform for girls. It is designed for low-bandwidth environments, optimised for feature phones, and already live in 66 countries. Through engaging stories, advice and inspiration, Springster builds girls’ knowledge, resilience and self-belief online, in order to create positive behaviour change offline. A live dashboard is measuring this in real time and aggregating a rich pool of insight to fill the world’s most urgent data gap.

4. Girls can get access to information, no matter where they are: We know that girls are using mobile to ask the questions they might be afraid or unable to - from sexual violence, menstruation, to how to start difficult conversations with your family. By improving the information they find online, we can increase access to vital healthcare and education services available on the ground. In Uganda, for example, 22 year old Ruth Nabembezi, set up an app called 'Ask Without Shame' which lets young people access information and ask anonymous questions about sex through their phones.

5. Mobile enables one-to-one conversations, at scale: This year, we launched Girls Connect in Northern Nigeria. By calling the service from a mobile, girls are connected to an IVR line (the kind your bank uses) and they can choose to listen to recordings of inspiring, entertaining and educational stories about girls' lives - content designed exclusively for them. They are then put through to a trained role model in a call centre who will help make the story meaningful and relevant to her life. In two months, the service received over 44,000 calls.

6. Mobile features can help keep girls safe: Mobile safety technology is on the rise - and while it can’t always prevent something bad happening, it can make it easier, and faster, to alert people to a situation who can help. In Bihar in East India, for example, a mobile app called  'Bandhan Tod' has been developed by campaigners seeking to end child marriage. Nearly two-thirds of girls in some of its rural areas are married before the legal age of 18. The app has an SOS button that a girl can activate if she is in trouble. The button notifies the nearest small NGO, who can locate her, and attempt to resolve the issue.

7. Mobile innovation allows us to better understand girls’ realities: We can use mobile to collect data about girls’ lives, and ensure interventions are as effective as possible. Take our programme, TEGA, for example - a mobile-led research methodology that involves training girls to become researchers in their own communities. It has been used by Facebook, Mercy Corp and the Department for International Development to inform their programmes.