Micro-Entrepreneurs Climb Towards a Stable Economic Future

In developing and emerging economies, access to economic opportunities can give women greater control over their lives, helping them move themselves and their families out of the base of the pyramid and toward more stable lives. Across Southeast Asia, Qualcomm Wireless Reach™ is using mobile broadband technology to support female entrepreneurs so they can achieve economic stability and become empowered.

Join Qualcomm at the Leveraging Technology for Access and Impact panel on March 5! Register here.

In the Philippines, the Hapinoy store program is a micro-enterprise development project focused on small, neighborhood convenience stores known as sari-sari stores. These stores are run mostly by “Nanays,” or mothers, who are micro-entrepreneurs working out of their own homes to help support their families.

In the Philippines, 37% of municipalities do not have banking offices, so without access to financial services, most people’s savings are often hidden throughout their homes. Through a new collaboration, Nanays can now participate in Wireless Reach’s Hapinoy Mobile Money Hub project, where they can use mobile broadband–enabled Android phones to access financial services and supplement their incomes. Through the project, Hapinoy store owners receive training in mobile financial literacy and learn how to use mobile wallet technology on their phones.

As members of the Hapinoy Agent Network, Nanays then sell airtime and offer financial services to customers, therefore training them in mobile financial literacy along the way. Not only does this generate higher store traffic and new revenue streams for Nanays, it also contributes to the overall financial well-being of the community.

Similarly, in Indonesia, Wireless Reach is using mobile broadband to bring economic opportunity to women micro-entrepreneurs through the Mobile Microfranchising program. Participants use a micro-loan to purchase a prepackaged kit that includes a mobile phone and then resell airtime to their neighbors.

The mobile phone then serves as a platform for providing additional applications and services to further increase revenues and profits. New applications and services were launched through a mass-market channel, which directly supported the entrepreneurs and ultimately benefited the whole community.

In 2012, more than 15,000 entrepreneurs participated in the Mobile Microfranchising program—82% of them were women, 100% of them were profitable, and together they served 1.5 million unique customers. In addition, approximately half of the entrepreneurs who stayed in the program for at least four months lifted themselves out of poverty and doubled their incomes.

While women micro-entrepreneurs in the Philippines and Indonesia are using mobile broadband–enabled phones to achieve economic independence, women in Malaysia are using a different type of advanced wireless device—a tablet powered by Qualcomm SnapdragonTM—to manage their small businesses and receive mentoring from a global network of professionals.

Wireless Reach’s Mentoring Women in Business program was developed by the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women to enhance skills and knowledge in the areas of business and technology in order to help women grow and maintain their own successful businesses.

Prior to their mentoring relationships, participants receive in-person English, business, and information and communications technology training from the Foundation for Women’s Education and Vocational Training. Then, mentees work with a dedicated mentor for one year to achieve their business goals. Mentees report gains in a wide range of skills through the program. Ninety-three percent say that their mentoring relationship had a positive impact on their businesses, while 96% built business strategy skills. More important, all program participants reported an increased sense of confidence as businesswomen.

Wireless Reach is a strategic initiative that brings wireless technology to underserved communities globally. Wireless Reach projects demonstrate innovative uses of Qualcomm technology for social good and help drive human and economic progress in developing regions. Wireless Reach invests in projects that aid public safety, foster entrepreneurship, enhance the delivery of health care, enrich teaching and learning, and improve environmental sustainability. To date, Wireless Reach has nearly 100 projects in more than 35 countries.

With an estimated 7.2 billion total cellular connections worldwide, mobile is the largest technology platform in history. As these projects demonstrate, access to mobile broadband can provide women from emerging communities across the world with opportunities that enable them to become micro-entrepreneurs and that help them to establish economic stability for themselves, their families, and their communities.

To learn more about Wireless Reach, visit www.qualcomm.com/wirelessreach.

[Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in Global Economic Empowerment: Private Sector Solutions at Each Stage of Development.]