By 2022, 600 million more women - from middle and low income countries - are set to access the mobile internet for the first time.
However, to truly disrupt the cycle of poverty, mobile innovation needs to go deeper than simply more mobile phones in the hands of more women. We need to ensure that when she is online, we are there to meet her. When she is seeking advice and information, that we are providing it.
How do we do this?
Here’s one way. Traditional safe spaces - that is, a location where girls can visit and safely and securely discuss challenges they face with a trained professional - have long been understood as effective. The challenge is how to scale this meaningfully.
For the first time, we have the opportunity to do this faster, smarter, and at a far greater scale than ever possible before. We can reach girls wherever they are in the world, and connect them - free of fear - 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.
It’s why we've unveiled Springster - a global mobile-first platform for girls. Designed for low-bandwidth environments and optimised for feature phones, Springster is currently live in 66 countries - like Indonesia, Nigeria, South Africa and the Philippines - available in 17 languages worldwide and supported by 78 mobile network operators. It is already one of Facebook’s Free Basics' top-five most visited sites and is already accessed by 1.3 million unique users a month. 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.
Our vision is for Springster to enable 100 million girls to find their voice online. Girls like Eliza - 15 years old and living in poverty in Samar in the Philippines. She has been accessing Springster every night, often reading the same stories about girls just like her, over and over. In her own words: “Springster [has] changed my life and my perspective. It has helped me understand the things I’m confused about and improve myself”.
In frontier markets, we are seeing the first ever “connected” generation - the first rising out of poverty enabled and empowered by the internet, social media, and mobile - with access to information and networks in a way that has never been seen before. It is our single greatest opportunity to help transform people from recipients of aid to co-creators of their own solutions.