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Mobile phones key to empowering women with internet access: Cherie Blair

Mobile phones can play a crucial role in empowering women through technology, according to Cherie Blair.

"Technology is a way of giving the poor that access to the global world, to the global economy that they otherwise don't have through mobile phones," the founder of the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women told CNBC on the sidelines of the BNP Paribas Sustainable Future Forum .

In February 2010, a study from the foundation and the GSMA Development Fund found that women in low or middle-income countries were 21 percent less likely than a man to own a mobile phone. At the time, there were some 300 million fewer female mobile subscribers than male subscribers.

Cherie Blair (R), wife of former British prime minister Tony Blair and chairperson of the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women, and Vodafone Foundation's global director Andrew Dunnett are briefed on a mobile application during their visit to an agricultural processing centre in India.
Sam Panthaky | AFP | Getty Images
Cherie Blair (R), wife of former British prime minister Tony Blair and chairperson of the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women, and Vodafone Foundation's global director Andrew Dunnett are briefed on a mobile application during their visit to an agricultural processing centre in India.

A 2015 GSMA study found that women on average were 14 percent less likely than men to own a mobile phone. The gap between male and female mobile subscribers narrowed to 200 million.

The foundation has embarked on a program to bring business tips to women using a mobile phone app.

In Malaysia, together with Qualcomm, the foundation worked with a local organization to link women with mentors via the Internet. Their sponsored mobile phones came with free internet access for a year.

The programme was a win-win.

"Once the women actually used the internet and saw how much their businesses increase, they were able to sustain that and pay for that access to the internet the following year," Blair said.

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