How Qualcomm’s Angela Baker Changes Lives Through the Power of a Smart Phone

March 26, 2014

Recently, I spoke with Angela Baker, Qualcomm’s Senior Manager of Wireless Reach and Government Affairs, on how mobile technology is a smart, important, and versatile tool for empowering women throughout many aspects of their lives – be it their livelihood, their safety, or their healthcare. Qualcomm’s Wireless Reach program values and promotes that access to mobile technology can give women opportunities to better themselves and their families.

In conversing with Angela, I was inspired by Qualcomm’s breadth and creativity in developing innovative solutions for women. For more information about Qualcomm’s Wireless Reach program and their work transforming women’s lives through technology, click here to download their most recent report, “Transforming Women’s Livelihoods Through Mobile Broadband.”

Kara: Tell us about how Qualcomm and mobile broadband have the power to change women’s lives.

Angela: Qualcomm knows that 3G, 4G, and next generation mobile technologies can improve lives, and in particular empower women. From nearly 100 projects around the world that we have implemented as part of Qualcomm Wireless Reach, we have observed that the impact of mobile technology on women in emerging markets is transformative – largely due to the access to a tremendous wealth of content and information. In addition, mobile broadband improves women’s ability to balance work and personal lives, and yields opportunities for other work and educational opportunities. Women’s empowerment is vital for economic growth in developing countries. Mobile broadband has the potential to extend that impact, contributing to important development goals, macro-economic gains, and mobile industry growth.

Kara: Tell us about Wireless Reach, your research and goals for the program.

Angela: Qualcomm Wireless Reach is a strategic program that brings wireless technology to underserved communities globally. We work with our implementation partners to create projects that foster entrepreneurship, aid in public safety, enhance the delivery of health care, enrich teaching and learning, and improve environmental sustainability.

Kara: What is Qualcomm’s business case for their women’s economic empowerment programs?

Angela: At Qualcomm, we believe that mobile communication technologies remove barriers to modernization and create new ways of communicating. Mobile broadband is the primary method of accessing the Internet for people around the world and it provides unprecedented opportunities to empower individuals across all socioeconomic classes. Nearly one billion women across Asia, Africa, and Latin America will enter the global workforce during the coming decade. And although women constitute a growing proportion of the labor force in many developing nations, barriers to entrepreneurial success are especially problematic for women. For this reason, access to mobile technology is particularly important for female entrepreneurs who often have difficulty breaking into established markets and supply chains, accessing capital, acquiring talent, and building their companies. This creates an enormous opportunity for Qualcomm to expand smartphone ownership among women.

Kara: How do you identify the women who would most benefit from your programs?  

Angela: Our economic empowerment programs focus on the ways that mobile technology can enable opportunities for all women entrepreneurs to become financially independent and self-reliant.

For example, in Malaysia, Wireless Reach is working with the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women on a project to support women entrepreneurs. With our project, the Mentoring Women in Business Program, women can create home businesses or improve their current enterprises and access a critical support system, through the application of information communication technology.

Today, many Malaysian women support their families by providing services that  vary in size and sector, and include beauty salons, bakeries, event management services, restaurants, a fashion e-commerce business, image consulting, IT centers, handicraft production, tailoring services, and clothing design.

Kara: Where do you see the largest void in the most pressing issues for women around the world?  

Angela: It’s difficult to identify the single most pressing issue for women around the world, which is why we are providing women the opportunities to address an array of issues from economic independence, access to education and health care, and safety. We believe that mobile technology gives women flexibility to create home businesses or improve their current enterprises, as well as access a critical support system through the application of information communication technology.

Kara: Where do you see the greatest opportunity to expand women’s access to mobile technology?  

Angela: The research from our latest report, “Transforming Women’s Livelihoods Through Mobile Broadband,” comes at a critical time. Approximately 800 million working women in the developing world have yet to subscribe to mobile broadband, creating an opportunity for the mobile industry to expand smartphone ownership. We know that many women in emerging regions have the ideas and ambitions needed to succeed, but lack access to professional development, education, technology, networks, and capital. Mobile broadband provides a way to address these needs and enables women to participate in the robust, flourishing mobile-enabled economy.

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Angela and more than 50 other leaders spoke about their efforts to economically empower women at our annual International Women's Day Forum, Turning Inspiration to Action: Next Steps for the Private Sector to Empower Women Globally, on March 4, 2014 at the United Nations. The US Chamber of Commerce Foundation encourages you to check out our webcast of the event here, to hear the discussion and learn more about the private sector’s challenges and innovative solutions for empowering women around the world.